Heat domes, atmospheric rivers and intense wildfire seasons - it seems like we’ve seen it all in the span of a year. Bu these events were just some of the initial effects of climate change that we’ve begun to witness.
In the summer of 2021, I was working as a research assistant for a project called the“Rural Community Resilience Project.” We formed a Citizen Advisory Committee that consisted of citizens from several rural communities across BC and implemented a survey that assessed community resilience and aimed to understand the effects of COVID-19 and other disruptions on BC’s rural communities. Despite disruptions like COVID-19, wildfires, heat domes and flooding, rural communities showed incredible strength and resilience.
In one of the Advisory Committee meetings, discussions began about the intense wildfire season that was affecting most of the rural areas in BC. Sitting in such meetings and listening to the struggles rural citizens face on a daily basis was truly eye-opening. With limited emergency services (police, ambulance and even hospitals), these citizens were always concerned with the possibility of natural disruptions including wildfires. One citizen brought up how Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue has developed a program called FireSmart that helps citizens feel more confident preparing for future wildfires. The program provides many useful resources. One of their guides and manuals is for residential landscaping. Apparently by making strategic choices in one’s own yard, you can increase the wildfire resiliency of your property.
What I was most impressed with the program was the extent of community outreach and citizen involvement through the Neighbourhood Recognition Program. Neighbour's are encouraged to work together to learn how to decrease the risk of losing homes in the event of a wildfire. To receive the FireSmart recognition, they must meet the following criteria.
This way, when a wildfire happens, firefighters can concentrate on actually fighting the wildfire, ultimately saving more lives and homes.
My vision for the future includes an emphasis on education and collaboration between all members of a community. Personally, I think we can learn a lot from rural communities in our attempts to battle climate change and create sustainable lives. There is a strong sense of community in rural areas as compared to urban areas. Although rural populations are relatively smaller, community members (doctors, mayors, firefighters, teachers, small business owners) all work together as a team to ensure a safe future for their people.
I see a blend of nature-based and community-focused interventions helping urban areas like Vancouver and surrounding suburbs to be more aware and prepared to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. Although FireSmart BC is a provincial program, as an urban resident, I was not aware of the program and have not seen it being implemented in my neighbourhood or taught about in school. As urban residents, we may not be the first ones to be impacted by a wildfire, but with a program where community members come together to discuss and work towards solutions, we will become more understanding of how climate change affects every one of us. With more understanding and access to such resources, individuals and communities as a whole can make more informed decisions and develop a more informed mindset regarding climate change!