Redefining community resilience: community perspectives on the intersection of gender, mental health and adaptive capacity in the context of the Mountain Pine Beetle disaster

Much of British Columbia’s forests have been infested with the mountain pine beetle (MPB), an epidemic that is predicted to result in the loss of more than 80 per cent of the province’s pine forests by 2013. The MPB is also expected to result in the widespread loss of jobs, shifts in traditional resource cultures of affected communities, and an increased risk of forest fires and other natural disasters (e.g. slides, flooding). Gender is recognized as one of the most critical determinants of disaster-related vulnerability. Women and children are disproportionately affected by disasters, reporting higher rates of stress-related health problems (e.g., post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression), an increased risk of sexual and domestic violence, greater economic marginalization, and substantial increases in their work. They are also less likely to be involved in community-based planning and decision-making processes. Dr. Robin Cox is analyzing individual and collective stressors associated with MPB in four forestry-dependent communities: Barriere/Louis Creek, Clearwater, Quesnel and Wells. She is piloting a community-based research strategy intended to engage affected residents in each community in a series of workshops and focus group interviews. The focus of these events is to identify and elaborate community-based definitions and strategies of resilience that reflect the specific cultural, social, and political contexts of participants. The proposed study will contribute to the development of knowledge around community resilience that integrates a gender perspective, and will lead to the development of policies and procedures that are relevant and responsive to different communities affected by MPB.