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M EM O RIAL PRESENTSTHE 37 TH IN A SERIES DEVELOPED FROM PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVES SPONSORED BY THE LESLIE HARRIS CENTRE OF REGIONAL POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT.BOUNCING BACK EVEN BETTERRESILIENCE THINKING AND HURRICANE IGORBY STEPHANIE SODEROALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN RICKS“We went down to Random Island and it hit us. Total destruction over there [It] wasn’tgaps–there were just roads just sort of gone, right? My thoughts were, “My God, we’regoing to be years putting this place back together.”– Research participantHurricane Igor 2010Igor was a record breaker. Measuring almost 1,500kmin diameter, it was the largest recorded storm in theAtlantic Basin until Hurricane Sandy (2012). It was thethird wettest hurricane in Canadian history, delugingthe Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas. Combine this withNewfoundland’s thin soil and steeply sloping rivers, andwe were quickly out of our depth. States of emergencywere declared in 22 communities, roads and bridgeswere breached isolating more than 100 communities,and approximately 200 million in infrastructure andproperty damage was incurred. One life was lost.The failure of the road system resulted in the blockageof diverse flows of people and goods. From the utilitycrews reconnecting electrical services to flows of oxygento people with personal ventilations systems, frompeople commuting to work and school to patientstravelling for medical care such as dialysis, the transportof even basic goods such as food, water, and fuel becamea challenge. Igor tested our resilience.Heavy traffic and heavy weatherResilience is a core concept in disaster response andclimate change adaptation. These fields extend thecommonly understood definition of resilience–bouncingback–by asking: how can we bounce back even better?Renewal, innovation, and continual learning are corecharacteristics of resilience thinking. What does resiliencelook like in the face of two intersecting trends that helpdefine our age: the increase in severe weather events andthe rise of mobility in our daily lives? How do we bounceback even better when heavy weather meets heavy traffic?40VOLUME 107 NUMBER 32014/15Movement is central to our society. Like oxygen,we both rely upon it and take it for granted. Whethercommuting to work or shipping freight, attendingdestination weddings or academic conferences, drivingschool buses or ambulances, mobility punctuates thestory of our lives, and the social implications of suchmovement range from Newfoundland workers whocommute to Alberta to temporary foreign workers whotravel from the Philippines to the local Tim Hortons.The rise of mobility also has environmentalimplications. Approximately 95 per cent of transportenergy comes from fossil fuels such as oil and gas.When we burn fossil fuels they release greenhousegases that warm the atmosphere. Picture down featherspluming from your car exhaust or billowing in airplanecontrails. Each feather–or molecule of greenhouse gases–traps heat. Warming the atmosphere triggers a cascade ofclimatic changes: rising sea levels, acidifying oceans, andincreasingly extreme and unpredictable weather.The United Nations reports a doubling of severeweather events in the past two decades, from about 200in the 1990s to about 400 in the 2010s. Such globaltrends are mirrored by local experience, with severeflooding occurring almost every year in Newfoundlandsince 2001, from tropical storms like Gabrielle (2001)and Chantal (2007) to the Stephenville floods (2005)and the Northern Peninsula storm surge (2007). Due toa lack of historical data, it is difficult to determine howclimate change impacts hurricane frequency and severity,but it is a safe bet to brace for stormy weather ahead.To explore the intersection of severe weather events

and mobility I conducted a comparative case study ofHurricane Igor and Hurricane Juan, which hit NovaScotia in 2003. I interviewed transport providers andgovernmental and non-governmental representatives,and analyzed print media articles and House of Assemblytranscripts. Three types of resilience emerged in thecontext of Newfoundland and Labrador.‘The resilient Newfoundlander’The concept of the ‘resilient Newfoundlander’ was used bypoliticians and other public figures in media coverage ofIgor. For example, Prime Minister Stephen Harper statedthat Newfoundlanders and Labradorians “are facing theaftermath of the storm with their characteristic resilienceand determination,” while former Premier Danny Williamsobserved that “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have areputation for being some of the kindest and most resilientpeople in the world, and this past week was certainly atestament to this claim.” Williams reflected on one scene:“there were at least 20 people on their knees in the mud,cleaning up so these elderly people could get back in theirhome . You know, we turned this around. We turned thisaround because we’re resilient, we’re tough.”Such praise is deserved. But it risks focusing attentionon the experience of individuals and their homes, anddirecting attention away from the House of Assembly. Thisis reflected in the House of Assembly records. The firstsitting of the House of Assembly was in December,more than two months after Igor. Igor was mentionedin half of the House sittings the following year, forexample acknowledging the role of volunteers anddiscussing the closure of Port Union fish processingplant, damaged by the hurricane. By comparison,Nova Scotia’s Legislature met two days after HurricaneJuan, and Juan was discussed in three-quarters of thesessions. The discussions were also more substantivein Nova Scotia, including links with climate change,impacts on workers and landowners, and the status ofemergency preparedness. The lack of discussion in NL’sHouse of Assembly about big picture issues such theintegrity of road infrastructure, disaster preparedness,and climate change implies the perception of anunproblematic status quo despite the experience of Igor.Engineering resilienceEngineering resilience is defined as getting things backto normal as quickly as possible, and it characterized thegovernmental response to Igor. In terms of reconnectingthe road network, the province excelled at returning tonormal. A prominent theme that emerged in the datasetwas a ‘ten day’ narrative. For example, one participantstated, “so over the next few days (and it was ten daysreally), we had our goals set. We wanted to make surethat we connected every community in as short a possibleNEWFOUNDLAND QUARTERLY41

WEATHER EVENTS IN NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR THAT HAVE TRIGGERED THEFEDERAL DISASTER FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE ARRANGEMENT PROGRAM, 2001-2010(Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and 200720082010Tropical Storm GabrielleBadger FloodWest Coast FloodStephenville FloodNorth East Coast FloodBurin FloodNorthern Peninsula Storm SurgeDaniel’s Harbour LandslidesTropical Storm ChantalNorth East Coast FloodHurricane IgorFEDERALASSISTANCE ( M) 185Mtime. And everybody stepped up. I mean we hadour workers working 18-20 hours a day.” Anotherparticipant reflected, “the estimation was weeks, if notmonths, to put it all back together, and we did it inten days. Now, I mean, let’s face it, it’s three years laterbefore we got it all straightened out.” In the span of tendays, some form of physical connection was made withthe more than 100 communities that were isolatedby road and bridge washouts. Over the course of thefollowing years, permanent measures replaced thetemporary repairs.However, the theme of ‘getting things back tonormal as quickly as possible’ is in tension withanother dominant discourse that emerged in thedataset: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ Thisconceptual gap is mirrored by the literal gaps thatIgor caused in the road network.An editorial in the Clarenville Packet newspaperread, “in this province, we’re used to being at themercy of the weather, but rarely has the weather beenso merciless.” Likewise, a participant stated, “I’d neverseen anything like it that severe I realized howforceful nature could be, but I’d never seen it.”Another participant noted “we’ve been throughwind and rain but nothing like this we didn’tanticipate the seriousness of it because we’d neverseen anything like this before.”42VOLUME 107 NUMBER 32014/15There is a sense that we are entering new territory.The case of Igor begs for consideration. Given achanging climate, what is the prospect of returningto normal? As one participant stated, “It’s like weare having a 100 year storm every two months.”Storms like Igor–and Juan and Sandy and Katrina–are surpassing engineering design limits. Do wecontinue as is and rebuild if needed? Do we buildto a higher design standard in communities alreadyexperiencing infrastructure deficits? Do we questionour societal reliance on mobility?Social-ecological resilienceWhen asked about the relationship between societyand ‘Mother Nature,’ participants uniformly repliedthat Mother Nature is boss. How do we incorporatemore environmental sensitivity into our daily practices,policies, and designs given that fossil-fueled transportis integral to our society? If getting back to normal isunwise, how do we transition to something new?The central premise of social-ecological resilienceis that the human and the ecological are intertwined–changes in one necessarily affect the other. Relative toNova Scotia, the concept of social-ecological resiliencewas more peripheral in the Newfoundland datasetcompared to individual and engineering resilience.It was expressed as ‘we need to change the way wedo things.’


Here are just a couple of ways that social-ecologicalresilience proposes we can do things differently:Manage slow variables and feedbacksThe global atmosphere has warmed by almost onedegree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. TheUnited Nations has identified a two-degree increaseas a dangerous climatic tipping point, though changesare already being observed. Such warming triggersfeedback effects. For example, warming melts sea ice,which increases the amount of dark water surface thatin turn absorbs more heat and melts more ice.Efforts are being made in Newfoundland andLabrador to mitigate, and adapt to, climate changeincluding: raising public awareness via the Turn Backthe Tide campaign, producing projections to givedecision makers a sense of local climate impacts,creating a community adaption assessment toolkit,and encouraging a green economy via measuressuch as renewable energy and energy efficiency. Butthese activities are happening in the shadow of an oilindustry that accounts for approximately one-third ofprovincial revenue.Interestingly, while there was consensus amongstparticipants that the climate is changing, in NL’s casethere was a lack of consensus that human activity is44VOLUME 107 NUMBER 32014/15contributing to this change. If this is not understoodat the individual level, it is going to be all the moredifficult to garner political will for bouncing backdifferently from events like Igor.Maintain diversity and redundancyIn terms of transport, redundancy can be defined ashaving more than one way to get there. This provincedoes not boast an overly redundant transport network.There are limited transport options and limited routes.As one participant noted, “one of the problems wefaced was the fact that some places there was no otherroute: the Trans Canada, for instance. There’s waysthat you just can’t get around the Burin PeninsulaHighway.”Igor hit us where it hurt, devastating the roadnetwork. However, the response to the failure ofthe road system was remarkable with both alternatemodes and routes leveraged. One participant states,“people were cut off, but we started immediately tolook at how can we get to them by sea. Could we useour provincial ferry system? Our helicopters?” Ferries,ships, helicopters, and quads filled the gaps left bycars and trucks–though notably these modes are allfossil-fueled. Different pathways were also used. Oneparticipant recalled, “we used some alternate routes