"We have the best life there ever was": Linking sense of place and adaptive capacity in Nova Scotia's coastal communities
Brown, Shandel Marie
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As humans we have an innate connection to the geographic places and social communities we inhabit. How then do these connections, which form our sense of place, influence our ability as individuals and communities to adapt to changing social, economic and environmental conditions? Climate change adaptation literature focuses primarily on material attributes of adaptive capacity such as access to resources, technology and infrastructure, while socio-economic attributes such as culture, values and identity receive less recognition. Specifically, there has been limited research on the interaction between sense of place and adaptive capacity. I approach this research with an inductive, qualitative case study methodology involving coastal communities along the coast of Queen and Shelburne Counties in Nova Scotia. Methods include participant observation and 36 in-depth semi-structured interviews with fishers, fish buyers, and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans employees. In addition to interviews I used photovoice as a method to engage youth in this discussion and obtain a multi-generational perspective. I highlight examples of sense of place within the case study site and analyze how these may aid or hinder the adaptive capacity of communities and individuals through the categories of flexibility, assets, social organization, and learning. Outcomes of this research suggest a variety of specific ways person-place bonds influence adaptive capacity, highlight social connections as the most commonly cited link between sense of place and adaptive capacity, and recognize that coastal communities display important aspects of socio-economic adaptive capacity despite often low levels of material adaptive capacity. These outcomes lead to a set of three recommendations for municipalities and provincial departments looking to improve adaptive capacity among some of the most vulnerable regions of Nova Scotia.