Posted in New thinking

Smart ICE and rural Nova Scotia

On January 4th, the CBC program, The Current aired a segment entitled “As ice thins underfoot, technology is combined with traditional Inuit knowledge to save lives “. (see podcast)
It describes the Smart ICE project,  a collaboration between Northern Inuit communities and Southern science at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). The podcast interviews Dr. Trevor Bell, Department of Geography at MUN, Shirley an Inuit resident from Arviat and Glen Aikenhead, an educator from Saskatchewan. The project emphasis is on the safety of Inuit travelling on land fast ice along the flow edge. It involves permanent monitoring stations,, mobile platforms to measure ice thickness as well as community knowledge of sea ice travel conditions around Northern communities.

The discussion centred on the need to combine specific place-based knowledge with more generalized scientific understanding.

This collaborative model offers many lessons for rural Nova Scotia (and other parts of Canada). It emphasizes a sharing of knowledge about the land. The importance of this knowledge to relationships and survival in these communities. The adoption of new technology by Inuit youth and their role in the community.


In rural Nova Scotia,we have many culturally isolated communities) Acadian , Mi’kmac, Black Nova Scotian. We need to adopt mechanisms for sharing geographic knowledge about the land, including climate change, water quality and forest cover. We need permanent monitoring stations, mobile platforms for accessing community knowledge. One example is the network of climate stations established by David Colville, while he was employed at AGRG. We need to share this information and develop relationships between community groups. In the Smart ICE project, the communities define the problem and later, they implement the solution.

“Seeing Nova Scotia” image courtesy of Edward Wedler

Community Mapping offers a forum for sharing place-based knowledge and placing it alongside a broader scientific context. As in other parts of Canada, we can all benefit from ‘two eyed seeing’.

For a different take, on the same issue, see Gary Snyder, A Place in Space.p.250.

” We are all indigenous to this planet, this mosaic of wild gardens we were being called by nature and history to reinhabit in good spirit. Part of that responsibility is to choose a place. To restore the land one must live and work in a place. To work in a place with others. People who work together in a place become a community, and a community, in time, grows a culture. To work on behalf of the wild is to restore culture.” October 1993.

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