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The burgeoning field of transdisciplinary adaptation research in Quebec (1998–): a climate change-related public health narrative

Authors Gosselin P, Bélanger D, Lapaige V, Labbé Y

Published Date September 2011 Volume 2011:4 Pages 337—348


Published 15 September 2011

Pierre Gosselin1–3, Diane Bélanger1,3,4, Véronique Lapaige1,5,6, Yolaine Labbé1
1Quebec National Public Health Institute, Quebec, 2Laval University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Quebec, 3National Institute of Scientific Research, Water-Earth-Environment Centre, Quebec, 4Research Centre of the Quebec University Hospital Centre, Quebec, 5University of Montreal, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Montreal, 6Fernand-Seguin Research Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada

Abstract: This paper presents a public health narrative on Quebec’s new climatic conditions and human health, and describes the transdisciplinary nature of the climate change adaptation research currently being adopted in Quebec, characterized by the three phases of problem identification, problem investigation, and problem transformation. A transdisciplinary approach is essential for dealing with complex ill-defined problems concerning human–environment interactions (for example, climate change), for allowing joint research, collective leadership, complex collaborations, and significant exchanges among scientists, decision makers, and knowledge users. Such an approach is widely supported in theory but has proved to be extremely difficult to implement in practice, and those who attempt it have met with heavy resistance, succeeding when they find the occasional opportunity within institutional or social contexts. In this paper we narrate the ongoing struggle involved in tackling the negative effects of climate change in multi-actor contexts at local and regional levels, a struggle that began in a quiet way in 1998. The paper will describe how public health adaptation research is supporting transdisciplinary action and implementation while also preparing for the future, and how this interaction to tackle a life-world problem (adaptation of the Quebec public health sector to climate change) in multi-actors contexts has progressively been established during the last 13 years. The first of the two sections introduces the social context of a Quebec undergoing climate changes. Current climatic conditions and expected changes will be described, and attendant health risks for the Quebec population. The second section addresses the scientific, institutional and normative dimensions of the problem. It corresponds to a “public health narrative” presented in three phases: (1) problem identification (1998–2002) beginning in northern Quebec; (2) problem investigation (2002–2006) in which the issues are successively explored, understood, and conceptualized for all of Quebec, and (3) problem transformation (2006–2009), which discusses major interactions among the stakeholders and the presentation of an Action Plan by a central actor, the Quebec government, in alliance with other stakeholders. In conclusion, we underline the importance, in the current context, of providing for a sustained transdisciplinary adaptation to climatic change. This paper should be helpful for (1) public health professionals confronted with establishing a transdisciplinary approach to a real-world problem other than climate change, (2) professionals in other sectors (such as public safety, built environment) confronted with climate change, who wish to implement transdisciplinary adaptive interventions and/or research, and (3) knowledge users (public and private actors; nongovernment organizations; citizens) from elsewhere in multi-contexts/environments/sectors who wish to promote complex collaborations (with us or not), collective leadership, and “transfrontier knowledge-to-action” for implementing climate change-related adaptation measures.

Keywords: climate change, impacts, adaptation, public health, Quebec, Canada, Arctic, intersectoral approach, complex collaborations, collective leadership, transfrontier knowledge-to-action, narrative, storytelling, success story

Corrigendum for this paper has been published.

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