This year, Canada faced its most devastating wildfire season on record. Many communities are unprepared to face this reality. What will happen as fires and extreme weather events increase in frequency?
This urgent challenge requires collective action from scientists, builders, insurers, and community leaders. The Climate Resilient Infrastructure and Buildings (CRIB) research theme of the Western Academy for Advanced Research (WAFAR) brought together thinkers from across sectors for a fall symposium hosted in partnership with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. Participants shared ideas about topics including disaster recovery and mitigation planning, the role of building codes in supporting climate resilience, and social and psychological barriers to climate action.
For co-organizer and WAFAR Visiting Fellow Rebecca Denlinger, the symposium offered a space for an exchange of perspectives and experience that may not otherwise happen. “Add that to the group’s willingness to listen to ideas and discuss varying perspectives, and the tone was set for a very productive dialogue,” Denlinger said.
The discussions form part of WAFAR’s role in catalyzing an exchange of ideas and research perspectives about issues affecting communities.
“Through this Symposium, WAFAR’s international research team ensured that their work continues to be informed by active, ongoing dialogue and discussion across a wide spectrum of North American sectors seized with developing disaster resilience in their communities,” said WAFAR director Fred Longstaffe.
The district of Tofino, British Columbia, is a leading example of disaster preparedness. A coastal community on Vancouver Island, Tofino faces the ongoing threat of earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires. Community leaders have responded to this challenge by developing comprehensive alert systems, by implementing bylaws that lessen the chance of future risks, and by empowering the public through engaging programs that promote survival skills and preparedness.
For Tofino’s chief administrative officer, Nyla Attiana, the symposium offered a chance to share solutions and to learn from others. “The benefit of sharing Tofino’s approach to climate resilience is having the opportunity to connect data and research with on-the-ground municipal solutions,” said Attiana.
Participant Ellis Stanley believes that collaboration among academics, researchers, and policy makers can be extremely productive. Stanley, who served as general manager of the City of Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Department, said, “It’s not about us without us. All of us must be at the table.”
According to Stanley, academics are adept at discovering transformative solutions, but they must work closely with policy makers and other stakeholders to make these solutions reality.
“By translating their findings into accessible policy briefs, advocating for public-private partnerships, and promoting social equity, academics ensure the integration of resilience measures into urban planning,” Stanley said.
Attiana thinks that the symposium was a positive step towards a resilient future.
“The municipal perspective was very important to the group, and I walked away feeling like we would remain a part of this work and discussion.”