Monthly News
September 2020
Economic development, and the associated resource extraction, is often touted as a driver of better health and well-being of communities, especially in rural Alberta. However, little is known about exactly how resource extraction and community health are related.  ACSRC Research Associate Nick Yarmey has been working with the Environment, Community, Health Observatory (ECHO) Network to understand and respond to the health impacts of resource development in Alberta.  The aim of this work is to identify Alberta communities that bear an unfair burden of environmental pollution and poor health by bringing together data measuring over 50 components of environment, community, and health in a Geographic Information System (GIS) framework, the interactive map dashboard. The image linked shows in red where the greatest amounts of pollution overlap with communities that also experience relatively poor health or social conditions. This work aims to help municipal stakeholders make evidence-based decisions about resource extraction and human well-being in their jurisdictions.    
In addition to the interactive map dashboard ACSRC Research assistants have been building a "Health in the Watershed Atlas" that combines a sphere of several sectors such as People and Community, Personal Well-being, Weather and Climate, Economy and Land Management, Ecosystem and Diversity and Water.  Each of these sectors will be a chapter in the atlas. The team has been focusing on the Personal Well-being chapter, which includes compiling fact sheets, policy briefs, and a historical societal analysis.  Two of these fact sheets are available within this newsletter. A series of YouTube interviews are also in development with the broader ECHO Network team.  The interviews will provide an overview of each sector of the Health of the Watershed Atlas. These resources will be shared as they are completed.
Carrying Capacity Surveillance: Indicators and Frameworks for Equitable Sustainability

In April 2020, we started a research project entitled "Carrying Capacity Surveillance: Indicators and Frameworks for Equitable Sustainability." This projectis the result of a successful Knowledge Synthesis grant application to SSHRC's call for proposals entitled "Living with the Earth's Carrying Capacity." The deadline for project deliverables, including a final report and a short evidence brief, is March 2021.
This project recognizes that while the scope, availability and volume of data-driven initiatives tracking the changing realities of the earth's carrying capacity have increased, a number of challenges exist regarding this data and linking it to public policy and decision making including a tendency to focus on local or regional case studies, jurisdictional barriers and the growing complexity of data provision. This reality leads us to ask the overarching question: How can we best measure, interpret and use the data within these frameworks to both understand the "state" of carrying capacity, but also leverage policy performance as a response?  The objective of the project is thus  to critically assess the state of knowledge and usage of integrated carrying capacity measurement approaches - with a particular emphasis upon the linkages between ecological change, socioeconomic/demographic and health impacts. Utilizing a scoping review approach, this project is focused on knowing what is measured, and how, in order to better understand the operationalization of metrics that inform carrying capacity.
We are currently collecting a wide range of relevant literature, including academic and non-academic articles, NGO reports, and other papers, and working to inventory, catalogue, map, and assess the numerous Canadian-based indicator and indices-based frameworks focused on measuring the different dimensions of carrying capacity. We are also collecting data regarding relative comparators and the broader international community. While we are only about halfway through the project, we are starting to see some patterns across the literature including: a lack of integration between the themes of ecological change, socioeconomic/demographic and health impacts, an
ecological bias across articles and reports, and core gaps in the literature include missing data from rural, northern and remote communities. As the project continues, we will draw further conclusions and start to form our final recommendations.


At the end of April, we wrapped up the "Emerging Technologies Economic Impact Assessment for the Camrose Community." This project was a partnership between the City of Camrose and the ACSRC and received funding from the Alberta Government through a CARES grant. The objective of the project was to understand the local impacts of automation on the Camrose community and the surrounding area. Interviews were conducted with 60 Camrose businesses and their responses were analyzed to ascertain the degree to which businesses are prepared for disruptions in normal business function caused by the widespread application of full or partial automation technologies.
The City of Camrose was provided with a final report.  The report provides an overview of the existing literature examining the impacts of automation, and suggests how policymakers and the business community (specifically in Camrose) can prepare for and address various challenges. The literature points to trends in existing automation technologies across western and northern economies globally, as well as the current and predicted effects of automation across Canada, including in rural areas. In order to minimize job loss and workplace disruption due to emerging technologies, the literature states that policymakers must find ways to reskill workers, improve digital literacy, and fill education gaps, particularly for those who work low-skill, physically routine jobs. Employers and the business community also needs to be prepared to integrate automation technologies into their operations with their current staff and skill sets in mind.
Data from the Research
Health in the Watershed Atlas Facts

As part of the Health in the Watershed Atlas (ECHO Network) a series of fact sheets have been developed.  The two fact sheets linked below outline immunization rates and opioid use rates in Alberta.

This independent study took place in 2018-2019, involving an in-depth qualitative health research approach. There were 37 interview participants in total for this study, namely, farm operators, their family members, farm employees, safety and industry organizations, worker advocates, and
government regulators. Researchers explored diverse perspectives about how to prevent injury on family farms
in order to inform farm OHS policies. It is important to note that the purpose of the study was not to measure or assess farm-level safety practices, OHS compliance, or rates of farm injury/illness.    
Workshops and Webinars

Four 90 minute live virtual sessions
October 13, 15, 20 & 22, 2020
12:00 - 1:30 pm
Effective grant-writing is an increasingly important skill in the municipal, not-for-profit, and even corporate world. For small organizations and communities, however, grant writing can present a real challenge in terms of time, completion, budgeting and submission.

Join Dr. Lars Hallström, the recipient of over 100 research, knowledge mobilization, infrastructure and collaborative grants, for this activity-based, online workshop for people with varied experiences in the grant-writing process.

October 1 - 2, 2020
Two full days of FREE content and interactive discussions - you don't want to miss this jam-packed program of rural researchers and thought leaders as they share rural-specific lessons and insights about the challenges and opportunities posed by the pandemic.
Meet the Researchers
We live in a data-saturated world, but all the information available at our fingertips doesn't always translate to new knowledge or better decision-making. I'm trying to improve this through my work with the ACSRC and the Environment, Community, Health Observatory (ECHO) Network. To do this, I'm integrating many public datasets within an interactive spatial data dashboard, allowing exploration of how different measures of environment, community, and health vary across Alberta communities.
I love this work because I'm able to apply skills and knowledge from across my disparate (and seemingly incongruent) background. I grew up in rural Alberta, studied environmental science and sociology at Augustana, worked on LGBTQ+ equity issues, did community-based research for Indigenous communities, got my master's researching people's attitudes toward black bears, and now I work in program evaluation primarily in the health care field. And somehow all of these threads come together in my work at the ACSRC.
One of the goals of my research is to allow municipal decision-makers to use public data to learn more about their communities, make better decisions, and understand the interconnectedness of humans to one another and our environment. It's important to me that my research can be used to make people's lives a little bit better, which is captured by one of my favourite quotes: "All rules for study are summed up in this one: learn only in order to create" - Friedrich Schelling.
Feel free to follow my work and get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

For upcoming events, conferences and workshops visit the events calendar on the ACSRC website.  This calendar holds events offered by the ACSRC and other organizations with a common goal of sustainable rural communities. 
Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities