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Royal Roads research helping protect regions vulnerable to climate change

Vancouver Island Indigenous communities are studied to combat warming in northern coastal areas
Environmental and sustainability Prof. Leslie King at Royal Road University stands beside the poster she created. (Ella Matte/New Staff)

Royal Roads University environmental and sustainability Prof. Leslie King has continued to research northern Vancouver Island regions vulnerable to climate change for six years.

Her Northern Knowledge for Resilience, Sustainable Environments and Adaptation Coastal Communities (NORSEACC) research project has let her explore various communities locally and internationally.

“It’s about northern coastal communities and the way in which the unique knowledge of different northern communities leads to different solutions to climate change or different ways of addressing climate change and other rapid environmental changes in their communities,” said King.

NORSEACC has been funded by the SSHRC Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and will continue to be until March 2024.

On Vancouver Island, King has become familiar with all three Clayoquot communities nearby Tofino and the T’Sou-ke Nation in the Sooke area. King has also ventured to Haida Gwaii to study situations communities use to manage climate change.

“I’ve been working in those communities for many, many years, and they do have unique and interesting ways of addressing climate change and other rapid change in their communities,” said King.

The First Nations communities on the island and elsewhere in coastal B.C. are special in that their responses depend on their traditional lands, their relationship with their traditional lands, and their relationship with their traditional laws and values.

Through her research, King found the Clayoquot were the first to create tribal parks.

“They basically carved out of their traditional territories land for a number of different purposes, preserving it, leaving it as it is, but also as a way of developing enterprises to make money for their community,” she said. “So they have a micro-hydro project, and a zip line project, and lots of other interesting things. So now we have the Indigenous conserved areas which is really built on the tribal park model.”

Communities across Canada are now taking advantage of declaring their own community-conserved areas, according to King. She adds that this “helps Canada with their target for protected areas – 30 per cent by 2030 – we could never do that.”

Declaring these preserved Indigenous areas has also prevented logging.

According to King, “that’s one of the primary problems with climate change is that we’re logging away all our carbon sinks.”

King also studied communities internationally in Norway, Ireland and Orkney, part of Scotland. In particular, in Orkney, citizens are supplied with electric vehicles, and they also have wind and wave energy projects to combat climate change, according to King.

She noted that similarly, in Iceland, there’s geothermal energy, a climate-safe energy source.

“Iceland is really interesting in a way that the First Nations in our area are interesting because their projects and the way they address climate change are really based on their values,” added King.

The environmental and sustainability studies professor is excited to continue NORSEACC and find creative solutions to prevent the earth from warming far north.

“My interest is in the Arctic, for many reasons. One is the Arctic is warming four times faster than anywhere else, and so it’s critically urgent that we solve the problems in the Arctic. Then the Arctic solutions I hope, will trickle down to the rest of society.”

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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