Posted in New thinking

Do landscapes have memories ?

After visiting Roxbury a couple of weeks ago, it was time to re-read some of the local authors on the history of our forested landscape (e.g. Whitman, Parker). Reading their accounts of the importance of the forest industry to the economy, makes me realize: what we have lost, and yet, what we are holding onto. The same observations can be made about other resource sectors: agriculture, fishing, mining.

memoriesIt seems that these (human) memories of the landscape, and its utilization, get passed down from generation to generation.

If this is true, then my questions are:
1) by exploiting these ‘resources’, is there any attempt to put back into the land or sea, to reduce the level of degradation?

2) with these landscape changes, do we have a good idea of the rate of change? Are we conducting land use surveys? Do we fully understand the effects of extraction on the hydrology and water quality? Or on climate change?

How easy would it be to monitor these changes?

Today, there is considerable debate about the need for broadband in rural Nova Scotia. There seems to be little discussion on the type of information that can be shared on the network. Would a ‘community geographic information utility’ give us answers to the above questions? Could a broader context allow us to view the Annapolis Valley as a coherent physiographic region? Rather than as a collection of disconnected political fiefdoms.

The opportunity exists to better understand our landscape: today, in the past, and into the future. The technology is readily available. Expertise exists in various post-secondary institutions. If we know where we came from, we should be able to plan where we want to go and take action which offers the best transition for both land and sea.

We notice the changes in our forest cover. We notice the changes in our agricultural land. Is it perhaps time to a conduct a land use survey of the Annapolis Valley?

Creative Commons image of Annapolis Valley by Halifaxman with former Panoramio

I remember back in the ’60’s in England, Geography was defined by the work of Dudley Stamp and Alice Coleman. If you go online, you will see that Stamp conducted the first land use survey of Britain, started in 1933 and completed in 1948, after the Second World War. This was repeated later in 1960 by Alice Coleman. Would it not be amazing to conduct a 2020 land use survey of the Valley? In reviewing the groundbreaking work by Stamp in the UK, we see that he marshalled teams of teachers, schoolchildren to conduct the fieldwork.

9780773528161As a footnote, and an example of the type of individual research that can be undertaken to better understand our rich landscape, check out the book by Sherman Bleakney, Sods, soils and spades. The Acadians at Grand Pre and their dykeland legacy.


This week, I have had useful conversations on this broad topic with both Rachel Brighton and Ed Symons. Edward Wedler added the graphics. The above represents my own personal opinion.


J. Sherman Bleakney. 2004. Sods, Soils and Spades. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Mike Parker. 2010. Buried in the Woods. Sawmill Ghost Towns of Nova Scotia. Potters field Press. East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia

Dave Whitman. 2005. Lost in the Woods. The Lure and History of Roxbury. Bailey Chase Books. Paradise, Nova Scotia.





2 thoughts on “Do landscapes have memories ?

  1. Hello Bob, I like this question: should we, for the purpose of good stewardship consider the Valley as one geographic entity. Yes we should and I tried to give hands and feet to this notion with the Ribbon project. I thought a perspective on the past with a perspective of the future, given the opportunities with the new technologies, could lead to the relevant questions to define what spatial information needs to be kept current, what new and derived information would be required? I believe a public interactive information platform in part based on Ribbon type information could engage an intelligent public in these processes. May be we should get a few but diverse group of people together for a day to kick these ideas around with a view of coming to some kind of workable plan. Best, Dick

    Sent from my iPhone



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