Posted in Opinion

Bring back Coastlands

As we readied the house for Christmas, it was time to sort out a stack of old magazines for recycling or garbage. The pile included Haida Laas from Haida Gwaii, as well as Northword from Northern BC. From Nova Scotia, it contained the Nova Scotia Policy Review. Politics, culture and justice and its successor, Coastlands. the 
Maritimes Policy Review. My last issue was Volume 4, Number 1. Spring 2011. Feast to Famine. Why our food system is in decay. Coastlands was published and edited by Rachel Brighton from Bridgetown.

On Wednesday, I caught up with Rachel at Bistro 300 in Middleton. I wanted to know what had happened to Coastlands. The answer – while policy issues remain a passion for her – the magazine subscriptions  were hardly paying the bills. She moved on, to other roles, and work environments.

As we come to the end of 2018, with local conversations about climate change, ‘coastlands’ are very much on the table. Part of my engagement is that I enjoy seeing the use of simple, provocative, geographic language.

Seven years have passed. These days, I receive the Guardian Weekly to obtain a global perspective. The Walrus gives me a Canadian view. What is available at the local, provincial level to give me a critical perspective ? What has happened in terms of rural Nova Scotia and its development ?

If I look at the last issue of Coastlands, I find feature articles on Community Economics, Ecology, Food and Agriculture, Health, Politics and Culture, Energy and Environment, Justice. There is a book review of a biography on David Adams Richards. Coastlands included cartoons by Janet Larkman, as well as the editorial talent of Rachel Brighton.

Here are but two examples. Rachel writes a column called Orwell Answers.

“A jolly good fallow.


Where have you been ? We’ve all been wondering, what’s become of George ? I missed your replies and battling thoughts back and forth. I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits even in these dreary days when all anyone hears about is this famine or that flood or that assassin. I would like to hear some words of wisdom and encouragement, but find none.

Wistfully, Frank.

Dear Frank,

I thought to lie fallow for a year. To be honest though, I was beginning to find the periodical that publishes these exchanges a little depressing and perhaps tiresome. We have so many pamphleteers and so little peace. I hope I can be of some encouragement to your readers, especially you.

Write soon with some good news,

George ”


The second example is a Vesper. The Marinade of Time.

“Let us think of quietly enlarging our stock of true and fresh ideas, and not, as soon as we get an idea or half an idea, be running out with it into the street, and trying to make it rule there. Our idea will, in the end, shape the world all the better for maturing a little.”

Matthew Arnold 1914.’The Function of Criticism” in Essays. Oxford University Press.

This speaks directly to my impatient, blogging self.

After seven years, it may be time for Coastlands to resurface. Perhaps an online version. There has been a lot of water splashing up on our shores, without a critical policy review or any evidence-based analysis.


Thanks to Rachel Brighton for her insights into the concerns of rural Nova Scotians.

Sorry, no graphics. Edward is still afloat somewhere down South in warmer climes.


Haida Laas is the newsletter of the Council of the Haida Nation.

Northword Magazine is a regional magazine for northern BC, published in Smithers. Northwood Magazine

The Nova Scotia Policy Review and Coastlands were published between 2007-2011.


2 thoughts on “Bring back Coastlands

  1. Good morning Bob, Your reference to Rachel Brighton brings back a memory of a visit to Bridgetown more than 10 years ago.The visit was to find out the interest in the town to participate in Ribbon to the Future project. The town planner at the time, whose name I have forgotten, had invited Rachel and Timothy Habinsky to the meeting. I made my pitch and it found no applause. But we did get to talk photography and in that conversation the name Georgia H. Cunningham turned up. She was a photographer who, born in Kentville in 1888, moved in 1909 to Bridgetown to set up a photographic studio. She died in 1969. She photographed Bridgetown for 40 years. I wanted to see her work and was referred to the curator of the little museum in town. She gave me a tour of this lovely institution and showed me a couple of substantial wooden boxes full of photographic glass plates. I proposed to set up a scanning production line to digitise these plates so the images could be used without fear of damaging them. I was sure many of the images could be used eventually in that public website we were thinking of. I had discussed this scanning project with my friends at the co-op Viewpoint Gallery in Halifax and we figured that we could complete the work in two weekends if we used 3 scanners over those two periods. I heard that Georgia’s 125th birthday would be the next year and suggested that with the digitised images it would be easy to produce a retrospective of her work. Also for that idea I found no interest. Then we had a cool conversation about the manufacturing of harps. I came away from this experience that the town was still reeling from the shutting down of Britex and that it had knocked the wind out of it. By the way I was a faithful reader of Policy Review and enjoyed it very much. It was a beautiful production by Gaspereau Press. Was very disappointed that she had to shut down publication . Rachel is an admirable woman and it is a great pity she couldn’t keep it going financially, as so many other good projects in the Valley. Happy Christmas, Dick.



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