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Deep Dive: Centre for Local Prosperity’s community future proofing

For this week’s Deep Dive, we’re taking a closer look at the Centre for Local Prosperity’s (CLP’s) Future Proofing Lockeport campaign, which aims to boost local resilience in the coastal community of Lockeport, Nova Scotia. 

CLP works with communities across Atlantic Canada to support and encourage locally centred economic development. They aim to build resilient local communities driven by the people who live in them.

CLP is currently engaged with several communities on a civic engagement process designed to collect feedback and ideas for “future proofing” against the economic and environmental changes associated with climate change. The goal of the Future Proofing project is to identify strategies to localize economies and promote climate readiness, especially for small communities facing risk of major climate change.

The CLP started working with the Town of Lockeport, Nova Scotia in early 2019. Lockeport is a coastal island community with a population of about 500. Their economy is primarily fishing-based—many residents are lobsters fishers.

Lockeport faces especially high climate risks because it is connected to the mainland by a beachside causeway at risk of disappearing due to long-term sea-level rise. The community’s maximum elevation is nine metres. In recent years residents have been facing increased climate risks including storm-related power outages, flooding, lack of rainfall and drought conditions, and the drying out of domestic dug wells.

In 2019, the Future Proofing Lockeport initiative began as a broad-based community discussion intended to address climate concerns and start building resilience in the face of an increasingly precarious future.  In the wake of the initial town hall, residents formed a community group that holds regular meetings about future-proofing the community and localizing the economy. 

Over the past several years, the town has engaged in a number of resilience-building activities including commissioning a causeway engineering design study to explore solutions to the causeway risk, participating in a climate change coastal erosion and vulnerability study, determining which areas are most vulnerable to erosion and inundation, creating a Municipal Climate Change Action Plan and more.

CLP partnered with the Green Resilience Project to continue the Future Proofing Lockeport initiative by hosting a series of community conversations on the connections between climate change, income security and community resilience in the face of the issues residents are facing. One group of conversations took place with fishing families, community newcomers and long-term care residents and focused on the need for climate adaptation, economic diversification and measures to ensure food and income security with a view to strengthening community self-reliance. A second conversation took place with students at Lockeport Regional High School and focused on the need to decrease poverty and increase economic security as Lockeporters learn to adapt to a changing climate and take steps to mitigate future destruction.

Across conversations, one major concern was the potential collapse of the lobster fishery. Warming water is causing lobster to migrate north in the Atlantic, meaning that Lockeport is currently benefiting from bigger catches and more economic prosperity as a result. However, there are concerns about overfishing and the long-term sustainability of the industry, which is the economic backbone of the community. Residents also expressed concern about the lack of a long-term sea-level management plan, especially in relation to the disappearance of the causeway.

Across conversations, participants highlighted the strong sense of community support in Lockeport and expressed interest in continuing efforts to boost local sustainability and self-sufficiency. They identified a number of solutions to the issues the community is facing, including focusing on renewable energy sources and the development of locally owned tidal or solar energy grids. They also suggested restrictions on fishing boat sizes to reduce fuel consumption and prevent overfishing, among many other things. 

Participants agreed that the Future Proofing Lockeport initiative requires high-levels of individual, business and government engagement in order to successfully address the risks facing the community. Especially in the youth conversation, participants recognized that income security can be an essential tool in enabling community members to take part in future-proofing activities. The full range of solutions suggested combines civic engagement and community action with incentives and funding from federal, provincial and municipal governments.

The Future Proofing Lockeport initiative is doing important community work by supporting education and action around the issues Lockeport is facing. The report prepared by CLP summarizing the outcomes of the Green Resilience Project conversations identified the need for community funding to hire a point person to continue this work and develop a master plan to address the community’s transition.

Those who participated in the conversations emphasized that Lockeport is a close-knit community of people who love living there. There is a strong sense of community interest in continuing the work of the Future Proofing Lockeport initiative. There’s a high degree of optimism that Lockeport can successfully be future-proofed with ongoing supports in place. 

For more information about the CLP’s community future-proofing work, please visit their website or check out their Future Proofing podcast.