Posted in New thinking

The Bus Experiment: Day 2

My previous blog described Heather Stewart’s experience of the Kings Transit system. It generated significant interest. Heather had more comments after Friday. I will try to summarize them below.map_eastWestBuses
1) if you decide to come home early from your meeting in Annapolis Royal, you are restricted to a two hour time window because the buses run every two hours.

2) the bus schedule in Annapolis Royal is different if you are heading east or west.
For example:
4E Champlain Seniors, Guardian Drugs, Wharf and Farmers Market, Annapolis Royal Fire Department, Granville Family Services.

4W Granville Family Services, Foodland/SaveEasy, St. George St, Historic Gardens, Annapolis  Community Health Centre, Champlain Seniors.

How do you know where the bus stops are located ? Do residents know where the bus stops are ? Are they marked? Are there any bus shelters?

3) on the bus, you are subject to the behaviour of the other passengers, who may be experiencing personal issues. If you drive your own car, then you are in your own bubble.

Another observation is that the bus travels on Hwy #1.  If you live on Hwy #201, there are limited number of bridges over the Annapolis River. e.g. Lawrencetown, Paradise, Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal. Also, what service is available if you live on the Bay of Fundy Shore?

In response to my earlier blog, I received the following  Guardian link to the situation in England. There, too, there are limited bus routes in rural areas.logo_arrivaClick

Could we not adapt the ArrivaClick application to suit the geography of  Annapolis County? Sounds like an excellent project for the COGS Innovation Hub.

bookCover_towardsACanadaOfLightThis weekend, we stopped in Truro on our way to New Glasgow. At the NovelTea Bookstore Cafe, I picked up, for $5.00, B.W.Powe’s book Towards a Canada of Light. At the end he offers seven Coda. Here are three:

May the ability to see a future keep us bold.

May the ability to perceive patterns that are yet to be fully realized keep us directed in our hearts and minds.

May the ability to communicate and face facts, and yet to dream new dreams and to imagine fuller lives, give us the sweet strength we need.


Heather for braving the unknowns of rural  bus travel in Annapolis County. To Peter Maher for the Guardian link. Edward for finding the time to add graphics.


L Hanley, “When the Bus Ride to Your Destination is Just a Click Away”, 19 Feb 2020.
B.W.Powe. 2006. Towards a Canada of Light. Thomas Allen Publishers.






Posted in New thinking

The Bus Experiment

Today, we had a good opportunity to conduct the ‘bus experiment’.banner_kingsTransit Heather had a full day Buddhist retreat in Annapolis Royal. With early morning temperatures of -20C, she walked from our house on Hwy#201 in Paradise to the CRIA gas station in Lawrencetown. She caught the 3W bus to Bridgetown. In Bridgetown, she changed to the 4W bus, and continued on to Annapolis Royal. This evening, she will catch the 4E bus at the Annapolis Royal Fire Department at 5:31 pm, I will pick her up at CRIA around 6:11 pm.

The purpose of the experiment is to see the world through a different lens. Not from a car, bicycle or on foot, but rather through public transit.

r2gTrekIn my conversations with Edward Wedler, this relates back to the time when we decided to walk from Yarmouth to Georgetown, PEI, as part of our Road to Georgetown Trek. Many things have changed since those days.

Later, talking to Ed Symons at COGS, as part of his community mapping research, he is producing Kings Transit maps. Think of the value of adding the senior (citizen) experience to these maps. Ed’s students are working on a number of other sectors: food, forestry, culture, First Nations, community services and climate change. All of them can benefit from community (citizen) input.

At COGS, there has been a migration of staff from AGRG Middleton to Lawrencetown. From the outside, this appears to be a recognition of project-based learning. It will be interesting to see whether this corporate directive is reflected in the business plan for the new Innovation Hub (read this blog post). Rather than driven by business needs, the hub could be driven by the needs of the rural community and then to develop a geographic technology-related solution for these communities. The solutions can be transferred, and scaled, to other non-urban geographies. Use the intelligence of rural citizens in these communities to drive the design process right from project inception.

I hope on our return from Iqaluit (end of April) we will be able to review a business plan for the Innovation Hub, which reflects both our geographic reality and our citizens. Meanwhile, until we head North, we shall continue to ‘ride the buses’.

bookCover_maureenToday, I received a second book from my brother Peter. It is called ‘Maureen’ and is a collection of historic photographs, commemorating the life of my younger sister; thus, indirectly, our lives too.


Heather for her enthusiastic embrace of the bus fieldwork. Edward for fond memories of the Road to Georgetown. David Colville and Ed Symons for conversations on community mapping at COGS. Peter for another treasure from our common past.

Peter Maher. 2020. Maureen. Self-published.

Posted in biographical sketch, Book Review

A Place, A Time

Today, by chance, I received a book from my brother Peter on my 75th birthday. It is called ‘A Place’.bookCover_place_2It shows thirteen pairs of images from Whitton (Middlesex, England).
On the left-hand page, a historic photograph and text explanation; on the right, an impressionist painting of the same location, today. Beautifully designed and published as a limited edition.

Yesterday, I was tidying up some papers in the basement. From 2004, I found two proposals.

1) Developing the ‘Centre of Rural Living’ concept at the Annapolis Valley campus, Nova Scotia Community College.

2) Model for Rural Development and Community Capacity Building. ‘ Applied Geomatics Innovation Cluster’. NSCC, WVDA, Annapolis and Digby Counties, NS.

Here we are sixteen years later. Sounds like an Innovation Hub to me!

Last week, Logan, my grandson living in Peterborough, Ontario sent me his world map.map_polarCanadian I reciprocated with photographs of two maps from my study. Polar Knowledge Canada and The Earth from Space, signed by Tom van Sant, from California days, 12/12/90.

bookCover_seasVoiceWith the storms, I have been catching up with my reading, especially the work of David Adams Richards. In Harry Thurston’s book The Sea’s Voice: An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Nature Writing, I found ‘Land’ from David Suzuki’s When the Wild Comes Leaping Up. It describes the back to the land movement in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick. As Thurston says:

“In all of his writing, Richards casts an uncompromising but compassionate eye on his subject, as he does in this essay about going back to the land”. P.232.


Peter Maher for his historical research and artist’s eye. Logan Root-Maher for cartographic enthusiasm. Edward Wedler for his artist’s eye and graphics skills.


Peter Maher. 2020. A Place. Editions La Liberté. Clermont-L’Herault.
Harry Thurston. 2005. The Sea’s Voice: An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Nature Writing. Nimbus Publishing.
David Suzuki (Ed). 2002. When the Wild Comes Leaping Up. Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Posted in Opinion

A Community Brains Trust

This week, I have been researching the concept of an Innovation Hub in Lawrencetown. Within the NSCC context, we have two examples: Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) in Dartmouth and the Pictou Innovation Hub.banner_COVE The difference at COGS is that we have a specialized suite of technologies: Geomatics or Geographic Sciences, and we live in a more rural environment. (This rural environment provides a likely explanation for the residency component).

Pictou Innovation Centre

One of the characteristics of a rural environment is that it attracts a wide range of retired talent from across the country and beyond and those who have rejected the more urban lifestyle.

To reflect the diversity of knowledge and experience available to the Innovation Hub, my suggestion is that we need a community brains trust. This group could include:

  • current faculty/ research scientists
  • retired faculty/ research scientists
  • local business leaders
  • community members who have chosen Annapolis County
  • rural residents
  • members of the ‘creative rural economy’ (see CRE, for example)

We should not be exclusive. I can imagine GIS business interests in both California and Ontario. There are also supporters living outside of rural Nova Scotia, who would want to see an alternative model of community engagement succeed.

Check out the business interests at COVE and the Pictou Innovation Hub.
Can we imagine a similar suite of business interests in Lawrencetown?
Or does the rural setting bring forward a different relationship to land and life?

bookCover_landAndLifeI found the following quotation from Carl Sauer in Land and Life: A Selection from the Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer. From ‘The Education of a Geographer’ (1956).

“We are aware that what we do will determine for good or evil the lives of those who will come after us. And therefore, we geographers, least of all, can fail to think on the place of man in nature, of the whole of ecology. Man’s intervention in and disturbance of the organic and inorganic world has become so accelerated that we may be tempted to escape from the present into a future in which technology has mastery over all matter, and thus promises forgiveness and redemption. But will it? Is that our fated way? Is that the sort of world we want?” p.404.

Carl Ortwin Sauer. From ‘The Education of a Geographer’ 1956. University of California Press.


Wayne St-Amour provided the links to COVE and the Pictou Innovation Hub.
Brian Arnott has discussed the importance of trust in the community context.
Heather has shared the joys of dog walking, as well as taking care of feeding the birds.
Edward Wedler did his enthusiastic bit with the graphics.

Posted in biographical sketch

The Electronic Cottage

banner_stantonSolarWe live in changing times. This week, Nova Scotia Power inspected the solar panels on our roof. As part of the installation by Stanton Solar Power, they installed a monitoring application on my Samsung mobile phone. This allows us to monitor the solar power, by panel, by time of day. It also gives us control of the system. So I have moved from a mobile phone for emergency purposes to another application and device in the cottage.

Our method of communication is also changing. For example, Ed Symons has converted my blog into a podcast. Every week, I receive an email from Emergence magazine. This week, it included a podcast interview with Richard Powers, author of The Overstory (see blog, January 20th).

Tuesday, Heather and I planned an experiment. We would attend AquaFit at the Fundy YMCA in Cornwallis. We would drive to Bridgetown and catch the 8 am 4W bus to Cornwallis. Our interest was the accessibility and convenience of the Kings Transit bus service. Before heading to Bridgetown, I called the YMCA to register for the class. Only to learn that the pool was closed, and will be out of commission for another week. Oh well, try again later.

bookCover_earthInMindFrom the bookshelf, I selected David Orr’s Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect. It ends with this quotation from Scott Momaday:

“Once in his life a man….ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glory of noon and all the colours of the dawn and dusk. (p.83)


Neil Stanton for his good work on solar power. Ed Symons and Edward Wedler for technical support.


Emergence Magazine. Podcast. Kinship, Community and Consciousness: Interview with Richard Powers. February 4th. 2020.

David W. Orr. 1994. Earth in Mind. On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect. Island Press.

Scott Momaday. 1993. The Way to Rainy Mountain. University of New Mexico Press.
Original work published 1969.

Posted in biographical sketch, Book Review

Reflections on a Misunderstood Way of Life

The GoGeomatics conference review is now available. Check link on the right hand side of the Ernest Blair Experiment site.

This week, we had two accomplishments.

Neil Stanton and his team installed fourteen solar panels on our south-facing roof. 20200128_133625It was a good feeling to see the meter going in reverse. We were contributing electricity to the grid. Given the cost of the installation, it will be a few years, before we see a positive payback. But it seemed to be the right action in these times. Perhaps one day, we will be able to store the electricity in a battery which can provide power for an electric car, for short drives around the Valley.

bookCover_facingTheHunterThe second accomplishment was triggered by a visit to the Bridgetown library. I picked up Facing the Hunter: Reflections on a misunderstood Way of Life. This book, by David Adams Richards describes his life, growing up in the north woods of New Brunswick.

I particularly liked the following quotation from p.89.

“My neighbours do not understand me. That I am the fellow who devoted his life to writing books….
And I think of many of them like this:

”If people were actually paid for their value, these people of self-reliance would surely be living in the finest houses.”

“A nice enough woman novelist once told me I shouldn’t give too much credit to the working class. I don’t – it’s just that I refuse to give them less credit than I give anyone else.”

Here is a follow up to recent blogs. I managed with the help of Kyle to transfer all my blogs from GoGeomatics and Ernest Blair Experiment to a thumb drive. Integrity Printers will give me a quote on a hard copy version.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with Ed Symons, Planning Instructor at COGS. Ed told me that he had converted the blogs into a podcast MP3 file for use on his mobile phone. That way, he can listen to them on his Highway#101 commute from Port Williams to Lawrencetown. I will ask for the link.


Kyle Hackenschmidt at Bridgetown Computers for his technical skills. Likewise for Ed Symons and Edward Wedler.


David Adams Richards. 2011. Facing the Hunter: Reflections on a misunderstood way of life. Doubleday Canada.

PS. Perhaps, after I have curated my blog collection, it could be titled:
Seeking the Geographer: Reflections on a Misunderstood Way of Life’.

Posted in New thinking, Opinion

A Vision for the Annapolis region

As a Geographer, I think of the Annapolis Valley as a physiographic unit. Travelling from Halifax, you enter the Valley around Windsor on Highway #101. It is bounded on two sides by North Mountain and South Mountain and extends down towards Digby. It also includes the Fundy shore.map_annapolisValley_satelliteView

Despite, the recent i-Valley definition, my definition includes Annapolis County and Annapolis Royal.

From an educational perspective, Annapolis County has much to offer the region. At the recent COGS conference, the resources at both Middleton and Lawrencetown demonstrated national significance. Middleton campus is the home to the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG). The Lawrencetown site has a long tradition of teaching Geographic Sciences (Surveying, Cartography, Planning, GIS, Remote Sensing and the associated IT). There is now a plan to establish an Innovation Hub and residence at COGS.

Other educational dimensions include the Environment and Agriculture Technology Laboratory (EATLAB) and access to Geomatics technologies as part of the corporate NSCC SEATAC initiative.

All of these activities bode well for education and research in the Annapolis Region. It links to high school activities in Annapolis Royal. If we are successful with Gordonstoun School, the resident expertise in the County can offer pathways from secondary school through to graduate work. There is an existing joint Masters degree in Applied Geomatics between Acadia University and the NSCC.

What is needed to support this vision?

1) we need to extend the Valley Computer Fibre Network and high-speed Internet throughout the Valley region.
2) the expertise at i-Valley should not stop at Middleton.
3) the Innovation Hub at Lawrencetown needs to be part of the Valley network.
4) Municipal government needs to work with the existing educational institutions to support all citizens in the larger geography.
5) the Geomatics technologies at the NSCC should be used to address sustainability issues in the region.

Ultimately, better collaboration, better communication, and leadership that respects the needs of all citizens in the larger region.

Many years ago, John Wightman, former Principal at COGS, created a non-profit entity, CANMAP. That acronym remains relevant today!


To those colleagues who have worked hard, to build up the educational resources in the region.

Posted in Event Review, Opinion

COGS Conference 2020

This week, I attended a two day Winter conference at COGS on Geotechnologies and Resource Management.Image result for Winter conference at COGS on Geotechnologies and Resource Management (Photograph from 2019 conference).
As a trade for free registration, I have written a blog for GoGeomatics. This should be available later in the week. Meanwhile, I would like to highlight a few citizen lessons from the event. The conference is in January to coincide with the industry expo at COGS. This is the opportunity for COGS students to arrange interviews with government and private sector employers.

Community Connections!The takeaway message from Hugh MacKay, MLA for Chester- St. Margaret’s Bay, and previously, Geomatics businessman, is that we need to create more Geomatics jobs in Nova Scotia. Part of that agenda is the building of an Innovation Hub at COGS in Lawrencetown. Scheduled for completion in 2021. Another part is the commitment by the provincial government to high-speed Internet throughout Nova Scotia. To my mind, this means collaboration across the three levels of government: federal, provincial, municipal. Unfortunately, multi-layers of government does not bode well for quick, efficient solutions that serve the needs of the citizens.

Another presentation by Terry Dalton from i-Valley sharply illustrated the same point. i-Valley is defined as the world’s first ‘smart and sustainable region’.M.Bickford / COGS / Jan 2020
Do we recognize ourselves in this profile? Are we doing well on sustainable resource management — forestry, agriculture, mining, fisheries, health services? Unfortunately, the geography of i-Valley is currently defined by the participants who are part of the Valley Regional Enterprise Network (VREN). This means the ‘valley’ is defined as the region between Windsor and Middleton. It does not include Annapolis County or the other towns and villages in the county.

M.Bickford / COGS / Jan 2020As informed citizens, we need to WAKE UP. We need to be talking about an Innovation Hub in Lawrencetown, evidence-based decision making, the use of current Geotechnologies. The new SEATAC (Sensing, Engineering and Analytics Technology Access Centre) is one of thirty centres funded through the federal government. The NSCC in Halifax/Dartmouth will be the main business presence.

Please, can someone shake some ‘remote sense’ into our Annapolis County councillors !!

Posted in New thinking

Postcard to Maureen

My sister was born June 24th 1948. She was the youngest of three children, including myself and my older brother, Peter. Early on, she was identified as ‘mentally handicapped’. From that time forward, both of us, were encouraged ‘to go out into the world and build our own future ‘.postcardToMaureenEventually, Maureen was placed into long term care, funded and initially directed by our parents. In time, they were unable to provide the necessary support. Today, she lives in a home in Sandhurst, Berkshire,England.

My centre of gravity has become Canada. Peter divides his time between Europe and Canada.

Recently, with help from Jason, his son, they produced a video for Maureen. It gives insight into our childhood through a series of family photographs. I hope Maureen will enjoy those memories too.


Credit for the video goes to the team of Peter and Jason Maher. Much appreciated.

Posted in Book Review

The Overstory

This week, I have been busy reading the five hundred page novel, The Overstory by Richard Powers.bookCover_Overstory It was a challenging but worthwhile reading experience. The book is divided into four sections: roots, trunk, crown and seeds. The roots section introduces us to the lives of eight individuals. Each person has a relationship to trees on the earth.

The trunk brings together these individuals within the context of activism and the Timber Wars in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is a challenge to keep track of inter-twining of these individual stories (roots). The final sections play out the outcomes from their collective activist events (seeds).

The importance of trees, their inter-connectivity and their relationship to global climate change offers a sobering alternative to traditional scientific thinking.

bookCover_sacredSoilMy next book on the bookshelf is Sacred Soil: Biochar and the regeneration of the earth. On our small acreage, we need to develop a better understanding of the soils and their fertility.

Visiting the COGS Library, I discovered the biography of Dr. John Mitchell: The Man who made the Map of North America, written by Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley. Mitchell was a botanist, born in Virginia in 1711.

‘It was at the request of Lord Halifax and the Board of Trade that he made his famous map, one of the period’s outstanding cartographic achievements and perhaps the most important map in the history of North America.’

I thought that perhaps the book was part of the Walter Morrison collection at COGS. But apparently, that is not the case.


Andrew Hannam for his help at the COGS library. Heather for her empathetic reading. Edward for his graphics.


Richard Powers.2018. The Overstory. W.W. Norton and company.
Robert Tindall et al. 2017. Sacred Soil: Biochar and the regeneration of the earth. North Atlantic Books.
Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley. 1974. Dr. John Mitchell: The man who made the map of North America. University of North Carolina Press.