Islanders’ Views On Climate Change Sought By Researcher

joe benson researcherA visiting university researcher is keen to hear your views on climate change in Scilly, whether you’re a sceptic or not.

Joe Benson, who is studying for an MSc at Royal Holloway, London, has already spent two months living and working on St Martin’s.

His thesis will look at how the community wants to develop against a backdrop of potential sea level rises and increased storm activity.

But he says his choice of location has surprised some of his friends. Joe says most students looking at sustainable development tend to go to “exotic places” like Gambia or Trinidad, but he wanted to find somewhere closer to home.

He was first introduced to St Martin’s by a friend – the nephew of campsite owner Ben Gillett.

A key part of Joe’s study is to capture the community’s thoughts on climate change and how we may be affected.

He says he’s looking at it with “a completely open mind” and appreciates that the topic is very divisive. Some people are sceptical about whether it’s actually happening at all, he says.

Joe’s heard from some older residents, who have lived on St Martin’s for 60 years and who feel there’s been no effect on the coastline, while others say there has already been significant change.

And he says people have very different views on what we should do about it – from building hard sea defences, through to more natural barriers such as sand dunes or even a managed retreat from the affected land.

Some locals feel it’s not their responsibility and should be dealt with by the Council or Duchy.

Joe says he’s also trying to understand what islanders think about green technologies and sustainable living, although he admits that most people here are already very responsible and have a close connection to the sea and the land.

Joe isn’t just going to “disappear” with the information when he leaves.

He’s planning to set up a website containing an interactive map, using data from sources like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to show how Scilly could be affected by sea level rise.

And he’ll incorporate the collected views of islanders, made anonymous, into the map so people can click on it and explore how other members of the community feel about the subject.

Joe says this is a way of giving something back to islanders.

He’s keen to hear from anyone about the subject and is here until the end of August. You can contact Joe on at jsbenson92@hotmail.com or via Twitter at @scillyjoe.