Terrestrial Research on Ecosystems & World-wide Education & Broadcast || An Innovative Graduate Training Program

Christopher J. Carter

Name: Christopher J. Carter         Degree:  M.A Candidate


While I currently working on a Masters degree at the School of Community and Regional Planning my interest in turning knowledge into action began early on. As a young alpinist in the Northern Rockies I lived the impacts of climbing routes disappearing with the glaciers. As a young filmmaker I heard the stories of changing watersheds from tribal leaders and ranchers. This led me to academics where as an interdisciplinary B.Sc student. at Montana State University I was introduced to global change through ethnographic research on intergenerational knowledge, herding and migration policy in the ranching community of Sweet Grass county Montana. Most recently regional planning research has taken me to Greenland, Morocco, Mongolia, and the Philippines. Action research and film projects with communities there have ranged from sexual health to mining policy and climate adaptation. In 2015 I served as an Arctic youth delegate to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP20 Lima and today I serve on the 2015-2016 United Nations University working group on resiliency and livelihoods.
Coastal communities in British Columbia must adapt to present and future realities of higher seas, increased coastal flooding and a disproportionate risk of oil spills. My current work with TerreWEB examines 1) what makes people and places in Squamish British Columbia more vulnerable to hazard and 2) how local planning institutions can effectively reduce loss and damages using a resiliency and social vulnerability approach. Successful coastal adaptation and resilient human settlements must translate knowledge into action. This is best achieved through creating a feedback loop with land use planners and decision makers to best translate coastal adaptation science and critical social theory into active planning practice. My communications project will explore this though the creation of visual policy briefings.
My research group, under the advising of Dr. Stephanie Chang, is interested in connecting coastal communities of the Georgia Strait based on how similarly vulnerable they are to hazard. We are creating a web-based platform to understand match communities based on forms of capital (i.e.. social, economic, natural, built and institutional) .We hope that by sharing plans, approaches and lessons, local governments can adapt to global change and become disaster resilient given the challenges of limited resources and decentralization. The project addresses perhaps the biggest problem and opportunity of our time in coastal human settlements through a pragmatic approach. If we understand how regional institutions, natural resource science and communication technologies converge to build resilient and equitable human settlements, we can secure successfully adapted communities of tomorrow. Findings from the research will grant insight into the state of adaptation, barriers to evidence-based and participatory planning and mobilization of findings for decision makers in the Strait of Georgia. It will further assist in filling the gap in literature around institutions adapting to climate change on the coasts of Canada. For local planners it will contribute the first tool of its kind in Canada to assess social vulnerability and similarities between coastal communities. As present and future coastal risks of sea level rise and oil spills bring due concern, knowing effective pathways to inform planning policy with global change science and understand local values will reduce loss and damage, creating resilient and stronger communities.
Collaborating with organizations, scientists and indigenous societies around the world as a documentary filmmaker, I have completed over a fifty films in ten languages, My work can be found here. Mountains and remote communities inspire me and if provided a free moment from graduate studies I will likely be found on a run, ski, climb or film project somewhere in the coast range.
Joining TerreWEB is a tremendous opportunity for me to learn, hone my craft as a planner and work with incredibly talented up and coming scientists.

Thesis Topic: Connecting coastal communities of the Georgia Strait based on how similarly vulnerable they are to hazard

Supervisor: Dr. Stephanie Chang



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