The following article was submitted for publication by Jim Jones, Associate at Oak Ridges Institute for Applied Sustainability, PhD Student at the University of Waterloo and member of the Mount Wolfe Farm team.
The COVID 19 pandemic has bought significant challenges to our lives. There is a growing awareness that returning to ‘normal’ is not the best course for a lasting recovery. Pandemics are caused by the destruction of the natural world by unsustainable human activity, which is also responsible for the Climate Emergency. We are witness to mounting loss of life and substantial economic cost across the globe due to its effects. Most recently in the North American heat dome and the extreme flooding in Europe and China. So while we continue our business-as-usual approach, we should expect an increasing rate of challenges to our health, wellbeing and social stability.
Palgrave Rotary and ORIAS in Joint Initiative
In a joint initiative from the Oak Ridges Institute for Applied Sustainability and the Palgrave Rotary Club, residents of Palgrave have recently been reflecting on what makes a community best able to suffer these types of shocks and emerge intact. This quality is called resilience. Definitions of the term are varied: ‘holding the line’ or ‘getting back to normal’ are useful but reactive terms. If our ‘normal’ is causing the problem, resilience is about owning the need to change through adaptation or transformation.
So what makes a community more or less resilient? A review of impacts of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and related events in 2011 of earthquakes and a tsunami in Japan and New Zealand found the most significant predictor of survival and recovery is the extent to which people know each other and feel a sense of duty and responsibility to each other. In addition, resilience stresses the importance of aspects such as a sense of community, reciprocal helping relationships between friends and neighbours, and a ‘place attachment’ defined as an emotional attachment to one’s neighbourhood or community. Citizen participation is also widely believed to be an essential aspect of community resilience.
Resilient Palgrave is an initiative set up by the Oak Ridges Institute for Applied Sustainability (ORIAS) and Palgrave Rotary Club to explore ideas of resilience in the local community. The workshop series emerged from a DIY Climate Change Workshop held by members of the Town of Caledon’s Community Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) Task Force at Palgrave Community Kitchen in January 2020. Palgrave residents present expressed a wish to have an on-going discussion around climate change and develop local initiatives in conjunction with the Town’s emerging (now published) action plan. However, the pandemic arrived and a shift in emphasis to community resilience was a logical development.
With funding from the Caledon Community Green Fund, Resilient Palgrave began in January 2021 with an online Resilience Building webinar attended by 32 people, with speakers on resilience, climate change, and community organising. There have been two workshops in April and June working with narratives around community resilience to create a vision and action plan. Using a method called Participatory Narrative Inquiry, attendees were asked to share their stories, ideas and feelings about how resilient Palgrave is today, in the past, and what a fully resilient Palgrave community would look like in the future.
What Next Steps Were Identified?
Attendees were asked to choose 3 “Killer” Next Steps that would begin to develop the vision into action:
- Relevant information to the community
- Input into the governance strategy for the CCAP
- Greening the Rotary Chuck Wagon!
This narrative timeline will serve as Palgrave’s Resilient Vision; the steps, its Action Plan to fulfil that vision. The participatory nature of this work is essential for the emerging story to be owned by all the community. There was a recognition from attendees that their stories represent a small fraction of those in Palgrave, so the first of these next steps recognised that wider communication and consensus would need to be sought before a committee was set up.
Upcoming Workshop in August
There are further opportunities to get involved in this round of Resilient Palgrave workshops. On Thursday, August 5th 2021 (7-9pm), there will be the first in-person workshop again at the Palgrave Community Kitchen (located in Palgrave United Church at 34 Pine Avenue), where attendees will create their own Resilience Map, highlighting community assets such as common spaces and community groups; features contributing to a sense of place; local businesses or residents supporting essential services (e.g. food provisioning, physical and mental health). It will also highlight areas of deficiency in resilience. ORIAS and PRC will host a drop-in on Saturday morning later in the summer at the Birch Shoppe Market in Palgrave where residents will be able to view, add or comment on the map and add to the emerging vision. Finally, the workshop series will end with a Resilience and Climate Fair co-hosted with EcoCaledon (date TBC).
Resilient Inglewood 2022
In 2022, ORIAS will be partnering the Village of Inglewood Association for a second series of workshops called Resilient Inglewood.
You can keep up-to-date with Resilient Palgrave on the Facebook Page, on Instagram at @oakridgesias, or on the ORIAS website, where you can also view the recordings, book tickets and (in due course) access the Resilient Palgrave Vision and Action Plan.