Climate, Cinema and Cartography

Mapping a way through the climate change maze in the Prairies

Scientists have been warning about climate change for decades. Now that it’s here, the question is what to do about it. One SSHRC-funded researcher is working on an answer, and his focus is the Canadian Prairies.

Ian Mauro is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at The University of Winnipeg, and a filmmaker. He was recently awarded an Insight Grant of $285,337 over five years for his innovative project to engage citizens and inspire them to join the battle against climate change in their very backyard.

“Many argue that the Arctic is the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ but the Prairies is likely one too,” he says. “Our research shows that climate change is going to increase warming in the Prairies greater than the global average.”

Because of this, Mauro helped create the Prairie Climate Atlas, an interactive website that uses visual storytelling to chart projected changes in temperatures for the region based on carbon levels, and the effects these would have on day-to-day life in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The next stage in the project will be a film documenting the human dimension of climate change.

“Essentially, we’re going to be interviewing people across the Prairies about our projected climate estimates, and ask local people how they will respond,” says Mauro.

“For example, the farm community is very interested in this project. Our mapping efforts allow them to see how climate change will affect their particular region and industry, and we are seeking their input on how they plan to adapt, what type of support they will need to be successful, and what strategies might be possible to curb greenhouse gas emissions in this sector,” he explains.

His use of multimedia to spread knowledge and mobilize citizens is part of a holistic approach that environmentalists and social scientists agree is the best path forward.

And while it’s easy to lose hope for the future in the face of climate change, Mauro is optimistic.

“It’s actually a pretty exciting time with the global discussion and recognition of the need for action. I wouldn’t be doing this kind of work if I didn’t think it was possible to reimagine and make real a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” he says.

“So, I remain positive despite the daunting task.”