Numbers and the people behind them: The data analysis stage of NECAP

April 8, 2014

I joined the NECAP team in February after all the fieldwork had been completed. Instead, this semester the gigantic challenge of data analysis has faced the team.  We have extensive statistics from before and after surveys given during the roleplaying games in addition to demographic and town wide data. It’s been daunting making sense of all the numbers, finding trends and themes about the role playing games. In this sense, NECAP has been an amazing opportunity for interpreting and analyzing data, but I also like to stop and remember the people and communities behind the numbers. The purpose of this project, after all, is to help people living in all the towns who are facing decisions on climate adaptation. In fact, the reason I joined NECAP is because of the experiences I have had growing up in a coastal New England town. My town lost power for a full 7 days because of severe damage from Hurricane Sandy. A year late we lost power for another 6 days after a huge blizzard brought the region to a halt. The reality of climate change is that it is happening now. Maybe the effects aren’t as pronounced as they will be in fifty or one hundred years, but climate change is without a doubt affecting our communities. With sea level rise, flooding in low-lying areas becomes more and more frequent. Huge storms like the two I’ve lived through will occur more and more often. The communities on the front lines of these changes are being faced with difficult questions about how to adapt to a changing climate. That is where NECAP is trying to help. For my work with NECAP I’ve been listening to interviews with stakeholders in Barnstable about everything from wastewater management to climate change to local social and political dynamics. These interviews are a window into the people of Barnstable. Beyond adding valuable context to the numbers we are trying to analyze, these interviews give me hope that people are worried and thinking about climate change and its effects. What is interesting about these interviews is the common theme of leadership that is mentioned over and over again. Our communities are facing the reality of climate change and while strategies like roleplaying simulations can help jumpstart conversations about adaptation we also need people to take initiative and start taking action. At the end of the day, we need leadership above all in order to adapt to the changing climate.

-Fiona Paine, Undergraduate Research Assistant