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Documenting stories of local environmental resiliency

A recently released film series showcases different community initiatives in the region to combat climate change, from community gardens to forest management.

Stories of Climate Adaptation in Waterloo Region is a seven-part film series by Kai Reimer-Watts, a grassroots documentary filmmaker and community organizer originally from Breslau and now based in Kitchener.

The series was released December 23 on the Region of Waterloo’s YouTube channel.

“The impacts of a changing climate are already being felt by many region-wide, making life and earning a livelihood harder for many people, not to mention also making life harder for a whole range of other species that call Waterloo Region home,” said Reimer-Watts.

Having created several other climate action films in the past, Reimer-Watts is the co-founder of Better Creative, a small multimedia company. This film series was his most recent work and focuses on the impacts of a changing environment on the region and the efforts community members are making to slow the pace of change.

“As I personally live in and grew up in Waterloo Region, the impacts of climate change specifically on our region hold a personal interest to me. It is clear to me that Waterloo Region, like any other place on the planet, will increasingly experience the impacts of a rapidly changing climate, and that to be prepared for these impacts we need to know what they might be and how best to respond,” said Reimer-Watts. “This video series gives a glimpse into the importance of that preparation to protecting our communities, protecting people’s livelihoods, and also centering important concerns for equity that can help inform a more fair and just response to this crisis.

“The series also makes clear that people in Waterloo Region are not just sitting passively, waiting for the next extreme climate event to occur. There are many people out there who are already leading important solutions to help both protect and benefit our communities. I hope this series will inspire further dialogue on key solutions to help many more people across the region better adapt to the big changes to come.”

One of the people profiled in the series is Dennis Martin of Winterose Farms, a long-time farmer in the area who shares his farm’s challenges with a changing climate and what he has done to fight back, from planting tree windbreaks to installing off-grid solar power.

There are a number of local stories that illustrate the issues at play.

“The principal planner in stewardship planning with the Region of Waterloo speaks to the importance of proper forest conservation, care and management in the adaptation series, including economic benefits to proper forest management, in an interview which took place in the woodlot on Whippoorwill Drive in Elmira,” said Reimer-Watts. “These seven videos are still only a fraction of the actions being taken to try to address climate change across the region.”

The series showcases a young boy who was helping with a community effort to combat climate change, a happy highlight for Reimer-Watts as he hopes to inspire younger generations to be part of local initiatives.

“My aim for this series was to capture a balance of voices from across the region sharing a diversity of different viewpoints, professional backgrounds, and life experiences, which I think for the most part the series does well. I was very happy for instance to be able to include the voice of a young Grade 7 student who gives a glimpse into the importance of action for protecting all younger generations today. I was glad to be able to capture a range of voices across several generations in Waterloo Region.”

Community gardens were a strong focus of the film series, with Reimer-Watts noting how they help in many ways such as combating food insecurity in the region as well as giving newcomers to the region a place to grow.

“Waterloo Region is full of good people who want to take care of the many diverse communities that call this place home – that came through loud and clear. The will is there amongst many people across the region, many of whom are innovating climate solutions of all different kinds, both to help reduce the region’s overall carbon footprint and transition us to a cleaner energy society, and help our communities adapt to the changing climate as best we’re able – not only looking out for ourselves, but also for our neighbours and those who may be more vulnerable,” said Reimer-Watts. “Climate adaptation in my view means first accepting the harsh reality of climate change and its unfair and unequal impacts on our communities, and then striving together to build communities that are far more resilient to these impacts.”

Stories of Climate Adaptation in the Region was filmed prior to the pandemic. The local series was supported by a community environmental grant from the Region of Waterloo.

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