Islanders urged to talk about their feelings post-Fiona

A group that educates about climate change wants Islanders to talk about how the damage from post-tropical storm Fiona makes them feel. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
A group that educates about climate change wants Islanders to talk about how the damage from post-tropical storm Fiona makes them feel. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

The destruction caused by post-tropical storm Fiona is still evident in many parts of Prince Edward Island, and a group that educates about climate change wants Islanders to talk about how that makes them feel.

The ClimateSense program provides training around climate adaptation for professionals, post-secondary students and organizations on P.E.I.

It is organizing a series of events called Climate Conversations, and the first one is called Making Space for Feeling.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

"Fiona was a very emotional experience for a lot of Islanders. Fishermen lost boats and wharves, farmers lost barns and livestock," said Krystal Pyke, learning co-ordinator for ClimateSense.

"Homeowners are still cleaning up the mess, and trying to fix things before winter. When it comes to Fiona, it was, unfortunately, a very good example of the impacts of climate change on a place like Prince Edward Island."

Pyke said it's important to give people a vocabulary for their feelings around climate change.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"A lot of times when we feel these really intense feelings, especially with climate change, it feels really overwhelming. A lot of times when people get overwhelmed, they start to shut down," Pyke said.

"If we can talk about emotions, they can actually engage in conversations around climate change, and maybe feel more empowered to be able to do something about it."

Loss and grief

Pyke said she has been having lots of conversations around climate change, in the weeks since Fiona.

"For me personally, I bought my property because it had a forest on it and trails. It took me about a week and a half before I actually went into the trails to see what happened," Pyke said.

"Instantly, within a few feet, I felt lost. And that feeling of loss led to grief."

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

Pyke said another word that helps in talking about climate change is "solastalgia," which means homesickness while you're still at home, or losing a place that once brought solace to you.

"When you lose that place, and you don't have a word for it, you tend to not think about it, or talk about it, or share it," Pyke said.

"But if we give people words and vocabulary that connects with the feelings they're feeling, they can then start to have those conversations, and feel like they're not alone in this situation."

Climate change art

Alexis Bulman will be part of the Climate Conversations. She's the artist-in-residence with the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation, and created a sculpture called Lillian's Place, on the Stratford waterfront.

Post-tropical storm Fiona knocked the small wooden sculpture to the ground. It has since been repaired and stands upright again.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

"The sculpture is meant to be a place where we can lay flowers in remembrance of houses and habitats that have been lost to the sea," Bulman said.

"And so it's certainly a reminder, I think, and it feels very relevant right now, that where there is loss, there's also hope."

Bulman said Fiona is providing an opportunity for more conversations about climate change.

"When we see a tree fall, or the dunes disappear, or cliffs and beaches that we've loved wash away, it does make us feel a sense of loss. And that loss is legitimate," Bulman said.

"I think Fiona has brought more people into the conversation. It was sort of the great equalizer. Everyone lost a tree. Everyone knew someone who lost a tree."

Submitted by Alexis Bulman
Submitted by Alexis Bulman

"Many people have experienced a loss of a loved one before, and loss can feel isolating," Bulman said.

"But in the days after that person that we loved has died, people come together with casseroles, and company, and that is how we get through difficult times."

"That happened with Fiona. We came together to check on our neighbours, at warming centres, to help people cut trees, and tarp roofs."

Pyke said ClimateSense plans to have a series of Climate Conversations.