Posted in Event Review, Opinion

The Pastoral Economy

Last weekend, we went to New Glasgow for Fathers Day.banner_johnnyMilesRunningEvent Besides the celebration, we checked out the chimney swifts at the old school (we estimated over two hundred). Heather participated in the Johnny Miles Running Event (it was started in 1975).

En route to New Glasgow, we connected with Edward in Bedford. We wanted to discuss the involvement of Nova Scotia Plein Air in public events. He had been working with the Halifax Northwest Trails Association. Heather had been working with Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) What are the logistics for engaging artists in the larger landscape?

As part of the information exchange, Edward gave me a copy of a book by Art White. It is a collection of short stories about living in the Valley, around Clementsport.


Returning home, I revisited Ernest Buckler’s “Ox Bells and Fireflies”. In the Introduction, Alan Young has the following description.

” ‘The Mountain and the Valley’, ‘The Cruelest Month’ and ‘Ox Bells and Fireflies’ are indeed ‘regional’ in their conscious attempt to portray the life and character of a recognizable locale within a specific historical and social framework, at the same time all three belong to the much wider literary context known as ‘pastoral’ and partake of a mythology that transcends the bounds of what is merely national or regional.”

This set me thinking about a short story competition. There is a precedent in ‘Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop’, edited by Sandra Bishop and Laurie Gunn.

I came up with two quick candidate titles.TickBobolinks

“Deer Ticks and Bobolinks”

This would describe the impact of changes in climate and agriculture on the Annapolis Valley.

“High Tech Haven”

This would be based on the location of a new secondary school in the Annapolis Valley, equipped with the latest technology (e.g a combination of Gordonstoun Nova Scotia and an expanded COGS.

Meanwhile, as a result of citizen pressure, there has been an adjustment in the forest cutting above Bridgetown, with respect to nesting migrant bird species.

If we are to invent a ‘new rural society’, it will be imperative to monitor changes in the climate, the landscape and the economic practices. This could be achieved by a ‘community information utility’, managed at the municipal level.

elizabethBishopAndHouseNext weekend, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia (EBSNS) is hosting their AGM in Great Village, on Saturday June 22nd. Guest speaker is Harry Thurston, poet and naturalist, living in Tidnish. Check out his book from Gaspereau Press, “Keeping Watch at the End of the World“.


Edward Wedler for his artwork and sharing his experiences. Sandra Barry for her connection to EBSNS. Extinction Rebellion for their citizen engagement with the Department of Forestry.


Art White, 1994. From Away, Here to Stay. Stories from the Valley. Pen Pal Publishing.
Ernest Buckler, 1968. Ox Bells and Fireflies. McClelland and Stewart. Introduction by Alan Young. 1974.
Sandra Barry and Laurie Gunn (ed), 2013. Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop. Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition. Published by EBSNS.
Harry Thurston.2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.

Posted in Creative writing

See you in the movies

This week, we binge-watched Season 2 of Trapped.logo_NETFLIX It is a dark, detective story, set and filmed in Iceland. Part of the attraction was landscape photography. This somewhat coincided with another Netflix offering Leave No Trace, a film set in the Pacific Coast rainforests of Oregon. Again, a unique landscape backdrop.

So here is the question: if you wanted to promote Nova Scotia, what type of movie might you make to depict the landscape, lifestyle and values of this province?

bookCover_casualVacancyOne idea came from a quick read of the first few chapters of the novel, “The Casual Vacancy” by JK Rowling. It is set in the small town of Pagford in England and describes the unfolding of events after the sudden death of one of the Town Councillors. Along the way, it unmasks the various values within society.

Other titles that come to mind, that could fit our geography: “The Constant Gardener” or “The Inconvenient Truth”.

Or we could talk about real events. For example, the Gordonstoun project and its Royal connection. Certainly, Annapolis Royal has a rich history that could provide a Pagford backdrop. We certainly have a large number of ‘constant gardeners’ and we are all fearful of the ‘inconvenient truth’.

Meanwhile, this Saturday, Centrelea Community Hall is the venue for ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. The film was first released fifty years ago in 1969.

See you at the movies …

David Manners set a precedent, starting from Centrelea.

P.S. Whatever did happen to the Nova Scotia Film fund?
Should we undertake this project, before the forests have been completely ravaged?

(see Annapolis Spectator, June 12.2019. Turned down – Forestry minister Rankin rejects Annapolis County bid to preserve the older-growth forest.)


To Frank Fox for the suggestion to watch Trapped. To Heather Stewart who purchased The Casual Vacancy at the Thrift Store in Lawrencetown for seventy-five cents. To Nancy Godfrey for Saturday Night at the movies in Centrelea. Edward Wedler for his graphics talent, his artistic eye, and a link to his blog post, “What do the films “Outlander”, “Titanic” and “Dev-Con 4″ have in common?”


JK Rowling. 2012. The Casual Vacancy. Little Brown and Co.
Check online for the economic value of Rowling’s books.

Posted in Event Review

The Green Interview: Margaret Atwood

This blog follows closely on the heels of the previous one on ‘Writing v. Reporting’. It could be considered a postscript.

logo_theGreenInterviewAnne Crossman sent me the link to a ‘green interview’ by Silver Donald Cameron with the author, Margaret Atwood. Cameron has just been appointed to the Farley Mowat Chair of the Environment at Cape Breton University (CBU). Graham Gibson (Atwood’s partner) received an Honorary Doctorate at CBU for his contribution to literature and environmental activism. Cameron has conducted over one hundred ‘green interviews’ since 2009.

Atwood considers herself a writer of ‘speculative fiction’, in the tradition of Jules Verne and George Orwell. Her interview with Cameron was framed in the context of ‘celebrating literature and the environment’. She is a knowledgeable writer on the state of the environment and climate change. Interview topics included Project Drawdown, plastics in the ocean, sea level rise, the extinction revolution and planting trees. In her words, if we are seeking hope, we must begin at the micro-level.

logo_futureLibraryOne of Atwood’s action has been to contribute to the ‘Future Library of Norway‘, a concept developed by Katie Patterson. She submitted a manuscript which will not be read for one hundred years.

This link ties in well with today’s Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. It includes the illustrated story of Wangari Maathai ‘ Planting Trees as Resistance and Empowerment’.


CBU green interview.
Future Library of Norway
Brain Pickings June 9th.

To Anne Crossman for joining the dots between Silver Donald Cameron and Margaret Atwood. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.

Posted in Opinion

Writing v. Reporting

bookCover_LastTimeISawAliceIn preparation for the EBLES event on June 29th, we have been assembling a representative list of local books. This includes the work of Bob Bent, Marilyn Jones-Bent and Dianne Legard who are part of the Panel Discussion. It is truly remarkable the number of writers living in this part of Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, we are connecting with our invited guests: Whit Fraser and John DeMont.

One question that has been troubling me is the distinction between ‘writing and reporting’. Both Fraser and DeMont have had careers as reporters before their book writing.

I have noticed that in these days of social media, changes in the content and quality of our newspapers: the Chronicle Herald and the Annapolis Spectator.
For example, I was surprised to see a notice from the Municipality of Annapolis County on the status of high-speed Internet service in The Reader. I would have expected a critical review in the Annapolis Spectator (perhaps I missed it).

This leads to another question.tablet_reader With the increased use of social media, how is that impacting the quality of the reporting in the traditional media? At what point, do we stop purchasing the newspaper? If all your information arrives electronically, then you are subjected to a barrage of advertisements and other material that matches your ‘electronic profile’.

Of course, books are not resistant to technological change. We can now avail ourselves of electronic books or audio-books.

On a more positive note, in response to one of my blogs, I did receive the following link from Gregory Heming: An ode to the countryside in response to Don Mills’ neoliberal mantra

Last week, too,  I received this photograph from my brother.picFromPeterMaherToBob It is from another place and another time. We both grew up at 39 Hazel Close, Whitton (a suburb of London, UK). The photograph shows the damage caused by a flying bomb that hit #51 in the Second World War, shortly after my brother was born. That’s a long way from Paradise, Annapolis County.


Thanks to the EBLES team, augmented by Nancy Godfrey, Centrelea Design(Designed for Real Life).

Gregory Heming for his essay. To Peter Maher for his research into our old neighbourhood. Edward Wedler for his continued support. Frank Fox and Paul Colville for our lunch conversations at the End of the Line pub in Bridgetown.


Bob Bent.2018. The Last Time I saw Alice. Self-published.
Marilyn(Musial) Jones. 2017. Growing Up in Cape Breton. Self-published.
Dianne Hankinson Legard. 2019. The Lost Voices of WWII RAF/RCAF Greenwood. Gaspereau Press.
Chronicle Herald June 4th Opinion. Gregory Heming
History of Whitton

Posted in Event Review

SwiftWatch and AIRO’s birthday

This week, Heather has been participating in Maritimes SwiftWatch.logo_martimesSwiftWatch

MTRI (Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute) and CARP (Clean Annapolis River project Society) are monitoring the roosting behaviour of chimney swifts at the new chimney at the old Bridgetown High School site. Every evening at dusk the chimney swifts circle and then dive into the chimney to roost for the night. On a clear Summer evening, this natural phenomenon attracts considerable interest from the residents of Bridgetown. It could be considered a tourist attraction. It is certainly an example of citizen science.

logo_localLogicAIROTo catch up with the activities at AIRO (Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity), I arranged to meet with Jane Nicholson. I had not realized that it was their third birthday. In their latest newsletter, they describe the types of businesses that they have supported, in line with their 2017 report: Local Logic: how to get there from here. Examples include restaurants, brewery, marina, trades, experiential tourism, retail and many others. There is considerable interest in the AIRO model from other jurisdictions. Jane was also kind enough to loan me a new book by Michael von Hausen,  Small is Big: making the next great small to mid-size downtowns.

logo_writersAndCompanyOn CBC Writers and Company, Annie Proulx was Eleanor Wachtel’s guest. Proulx is best known for her books, The Shipping News and Barkskins. In the interview, she talks about ‘geographic determinism”.

‘I think that where you live dictates who you are, what you do, who you marry, your work, what you eat, how you die, what happens to you afterwards. It’s all place.’

bookCover_biography1984Another item that crossed my desk was from May 24, 2019, The Guardian Weekly. It includes an extract from The Ministry of Truth: a biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey. The following two quotations caught my attention.

‘Orwell felt that he lived in cursed times. He fantasized about another life in which he could spend his days gardening and writing fiction instead of being ‘forced into becoming a pamphleteer’.

‘Central to his honesty was his commitment to constantly working out what he thought and why he thought it and never ceasing to reassess these opinions. To quote Christopher Hitchens, one of Orwell’s most eloquent admirers ‘It matters not what you think, but how you think’.


To Heather Stewart for sharing her swift monitoring duties. To Jane Nicholson for sharing the AIRO story. To Edward Wedler for the graphics.


Bird Studies Canada. Maritimes SwiftWatch. Check web site

AIRO Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunities

Michael A. von Hausen. 2018. Small is Big. Making the next great Small to Mid-Size Downtowns. VIU Press.

CBC Writers and Company. From The Shipping News to BrokeBack Mountain, Annie Proulx on the importance of place in her fiction.

The Guardian Weekly. 24 May 2019. The Clock struck 13. p54-57. Extract from The Ministry of Truth: a Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. by Dorian Lynskey


Chronicle Herald. June 1, 2019 Page D2. Don Mills. ‘Regional hubs could cure rural malaise’. An alternative view on rural communities in Nova Scotia.

Posted in Book Review

Jane Jacobs Biography


“If you have a library and a garden, you want for nothing else”: British saying.

From Chapter 4. What we can learn from the British, Mark Cullen and Ben Cullen’s Escape to Reality: how the world is changing gardening and gardening is changing the world.
I found in the COGS Library Alice Sparberg Alexiou’s biography Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary.

Chapter 10, Economist without Portfolio, starts with the question ” Why do some places get rich, but not others ?” (p 169).

In ‘On the Mechanics of Economic Development’, Robert Lucas, who would win the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1995, argued that places that thrive do so mostly as a result of what economists call ‘human capital’ (p169). When Lucas was developing his hypothesis, he read Jacob’s 1969 book The Economy of Cities. Her book, Lucas realized, was all about the external effects of human capital, and it helped his ideas take shape (p 170).
“As Jacobs had rightly emphasized and illustrated with hundreds of concrete examples, much of economic life is ‘creative’ in much the same way as ‘art’ or ‘science’ (p 171).

“All economic growth since the industrial revolution is due to ideas,” Lucas says ” But growth theory for years ignored the force of ideas. For Jacobs, this question is the centre of everything’. ” Jacobs, he says “shows that most of the ideas come from the ground, not R & D departments” (p 171).

From Jacobs, ” I think we are misled by universities … into thinking that there actually are separate fields of knowledge. But no, they link up … everything is a seamless web … and its a very functional thing, not just a poetic expression.”

CHruralRenaissanceCombine these observations by Jacobs with the Chronicle Herald article on the new rural economy. The PLACE model of Community Development comes from seven years of research on Fogo Island by Memorial University in partnership with the Shorefast Foundation.

Promote community champions
Link Insiders and Outsiders
Assess local capacities
Convey compelling narratives
Engage both/and thinking

‘It is through a commitment to place, and principles of PLACE, that champions muster the energy, creativity and other resources to renew a community’s economy and sense of purpose.’

Further to my conversations with Brian Arnott (see my earlier blog) Jane Jacobs can be considered both an urban visionary and a rural visionary.


This week, we settled on the format for the Local Authors Question and Answer session at the EBLES event on June 29th. Bob Bent, Marilyn Jones and Dianne LeGard, all members of Authors Ink, will discuss their work. They will address the question: Why do I write? What do I like to write about? How is my writing published? How to market my book(s)?

Brian Arnott for his thoughts on economic development in rural communities. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.


Alice Sparberg Alexiou. 2006. Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary. Harper Collins Publishing.

Mark Cullen and Ben Cullen. 2018. Escape to Reality. How the World is changing Gardening and how Gardening is changing the World. Nimbus Books.

Barbara Dean-Simmons. Chronicle Herald. Friday, May 24,2019. How unexpected ideas are leading to a new rural economy. Part 3. Taking the Past into the Future. p A8-A9.

Posted in biographical sketch

Citizen Advisory

This week, I had two opportunities to discuss citizen advisory committees. The first arose from my conversations with Brian Arnott. Brian and his partner Leslie Wright run an international cultural consulting business, Novita Interpares, from Lunenburg.Screenshot_2019-05-20-09-01-43 We were comparing notes on community development in the Annapolis Valley and along the South Shore. In my previous blog, I had raised questions about technology and education from the perspective of a citizen living in rural Annapolis County. Asking difficult questions, and offering solutions are very different activities.

From Brian, I recognized that small towns are scaled down versions of our larger metropolitan areas. As such their economic development depends upon input from different sectors. This input can be obtained through citizen advisory committees or sectoral interest groups.

The second opportunity was a meeting with Danielle Robinson. Danielle is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Guelph.Screenshot_2019-05-20-09-12-57 Her Ph.D research is a comparative analysis of food tourism in the Okanagan Valley with the Annapolis Valley. As we talked about the structures in Nova Scotia , I realized there is a real difference in both approach and culture between BC and NS. Comparative research can help us redefine our approach to seemingly intractable issues: changing demographics, municipal competition, the relationship between communities and their educational institutions.


While in Lunenburg, Brian introduced me to Alastair Jarvis who runs Woodscamp Technologies Inc. This company is owned by the American Forest Foundation. Their business model is to assist private woodlot owners in several US states. They use a combination of technologies to meet the needs of their clients. Interestingly, their staff has expertise in GIS, cloud computing, as well as gaming technologies. They are able to meet the needs of their American clients from Lunenburg, in rural Nova Scotia.

This week, we have started to ramp up the publicity for the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES) bi-ennial event, in support of local writing. This year it will be Saturday, June 29th at the Temple on Queen in Bridgetown. Keynote speakers are Whit Fraser and John Demont. Both bring a reporter’s experience to their writing and understanding of the North, and the Maritimes, respectively.

b52c602a-2817-4905-9c36-9fda35f157e7Tickets for the EBLES event are available at The Endless Shores Books, Bridgetown; Shelf Life Used Books, Kentville; The Inside Story, Greenwood; Mad Hatter Books, Annapolis Royal and the MacDonald Museum, Middleton.


To Brian Arnott, Alastair Jarvis and Danielle Robinson for a series of stimulating conversations. To the members of the EBLES team for their ongoing commitment to writing about place: Jane Borecky, Anne Crossman and John Montgomerie. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.


Woodscamp Technologies Inc. see their web site at

Whit Fraser 2018. True North Rising. Burnstown Publishing House.

John Demont 2017. The Long Way Home. A personal history of Nova Scotia. Penguin Random House.




Posted in Opinion

Carpe Diem

On Friday, I cycled to COGS to meet with Wayne St-Amour (Principal, Annapolis Valley campus NSCC) and Michael Purcell (Manager, COGS). The chat was about the new residence on the Lawrencetown site. On my way, I noticed the OPEN sign at the WineMakers  Tavern on the corner.Screenshot_2019-05-11-10-35-03 Later in the day, Heather and I stopped there for an inaugural lunch. This opening, combined with the renovations at the Lawrencetown restaurant, shows a real commitment by local business to the community. These investments are complemented by the activities across the river at the BeaverCreek Winery and Lunn’s Mill Beer Company.

This week proved to be a painful transition for me. It was time to start up the ride-on lawn mower, as well as the tractor for the orchard. My enthusiasm was dampened by the need to replace the batteries, but also to switch mental gears. I had to ‘get out of my head’ and ‘get into my hands’. Two very different types of thinking.

This transition coincided with listening to a couple of podcasts on CBC Radio Ideas. This week, Jean Vanier died, aged 91, in Paris. Vanier was the founder of the L’Arche movement. The podcasts, The Rabbit and the Giraffe replayed  interviews with Vanier about his life and philosophy. I was struck by his holistic philosophy, but also his deep sense of community.

As I reflect on the initiatives taking place in the Annapolis Valley, it seems that we must ‘seize the moment’. In my conversation with Wayne and Michael, it appears that not a lot has changed since the early days of COGS (1980’s). We still possess a unique circumstance of a specialized technical institute, located in a diverse, culturally-rich, rural setting. There are however some questions that we need to collectively answer:

What is happening to the high speed Internet for the region ?

We have talented elders in the region who are having a difficult time conducting their business because of the continuing poor Internet service; undoubtedly placing some at a competitive disadvantage.

What is happening to Gordonstoun Nova Scotia ?

This initiative makes sense, especially if it is coupled with the interests of other post-secondary institutions, like COGS. The underlying values are consistent.

What is the vision and business plan for the new residence  at COGS ?

We need to understand the market for the courses that will be offered at this facility, so that it will cover the initial investment and annual costs.

From where I sit, on the East Side of Eden, the opportunity  to grow ‘the creative rural economy’ remains. Carpe Diem. But we do need answers to these three questions. Within the community, there are elders who can assist in finding these answers.


We went to see Sharkwater Extinction at the Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal on Friday evening. It is a documentary on the life of film maker and conservationist, Rob Stewart. We were surprised at the low attendance. Perhaps, our marine environment remains under-appreciated by land-based rural residents.


CBC Radio Ideas. 2019. Two part series. Remembering Jean Vanier: The Rabbit and the Giraffe. Available as podcast.


To Wayne St Amour and Michael Purcell for their willingness to chat. John Wightman and Roger Mosher for their regular Friday afternoon feedback. And Edward Wedler for his remote contribution.

Posted in Event Review, New thinking

COGS celebration and reflections

Last Friday, I attended the 17th Annual COGS Student Success celebration at the Lawrencetown Fire Hall. Approximately fifty awards were handed out to students in the Geographic Sciences. COGSawardsThis included GIS, Remote Sensing, Marine Geomatics, Survey Technology and Technician, Community Planning and Information Technology. Today, the student population is around one hundred and fifty.  In my day (1980-88), we had similar student numbers, divided into three departments: Surveying, Computer Programming, and Cartography/Planning. It will be interesting to speculate on the numbers and disciplinary interests over the next thirty years.

Konrad Dramowicz and Kathleen Stewart, both announced their retirement from the NSCC. We wish them well in the third age.

bookCover_ArtisticApproachesToCulturalMappingA couple of conversations caught my attention. The first was a chat about the conversion of a LiDAR-derived topographic landscape into a hooked rug. This resonated with a new book that I had signed out from the COGS library. Artistic Approaches to Cultural Mapping: activating imaginaries and means of knowing. The second conversation, with Ed Symons, related to my experience at the walk-in clinic in Berwick, looking for a doctor. There, I had picked up a brochure describing the process for 811 registration. Here was my question: why not allow communities to actively engage in the doctor shortage issue. Can we not map citizens who do not have a family doctor from the registry?  Can we not map the communities where doctors are retiring? This would allow individual communities, without government oversight and control, to be more proactive.

logo_WWSCYesterday, Heather and I joined a group of about thirty woodlot owners for a field trip organized by the Western Woodlot Services Cooperative (WWSC) to North Range, Digby County. It started at the Forest Products Mill outside of Barton. Our host was Harold Alexander who has been managing woodlots in the area for over forty years. It was a joy to spend the time in the woods with a knowledgeable person and to appreciate the complexity of the decision process behind woodlot management and to understand the potential for a better alternative through citizen collaboration.

bookCover_UnderlandThis week, I received emails, from my brother and Frank Fox, about the new book by Robert MacFarlane, Underland. On BBC Radio 4 at 9:45 am, each day there was a short podcast from a different chapter. The book looks at landscape features below the ground, especially caves, mines, sewer systems throughout Europe. It reminded me of two occasions in my own life. While at the University of Birmingham, we hitch-hiked to the west coast of Ireland to go caving near Lisdoonvarna and the Burren. A few years later (1970) I joined Derek Ford, Michael Goodchild and others to explore Castleguard Cave in the Canadian Rockies, beneath the Columbia Icefields. Both are a classic example of physical geography in action.

One final reflection. Again beginning with a conversation with Ed Symons,  he gave me the latest issue of Municipal World (May 2019). It includes an article New Uses for Historic Places of Faith. Up near Wolfville, they have converted a church into a local craft brewery. Yesterday I noticed at Plympton, they are deconstructing the church. Only the frame remains standing. What an interesting commentary on society.


Ed Symons for the conversations, before and during at the COGS Award Ceremony. Harold Alexander for his in-depth knowledge of the woods in Southwest Nova Scotia. Peter Maher and Frank Fox for forwarding the reviews of Robert McFarlane’s new book. Edward Wedler for his artistic contribution.


Nancy Duxbury, WF Garrett-Petts and A. Longley. (ed). 2019. Artistic Approaches to Cultural Mapping: activating imaginaries and means of knowing. Routledge Publishing.

Robert MacFarlane. 2019 Underland: a deep time journey. Hamish Hamilton Publishing.


In the Duxbury book, two items caught my eye. There is a reference to Tom van Sant’s  map The Earth – From Space: a Satellite View of the World. Here, right next to my computer, I have a signed copy of this image dated 12-13-90 from my days with Esri, Redlands and meeting Tom at his studio.

The second item is a reference to the work of radical geographer, William Bunge: 1968. Where Detroit’s run over Black Children on the Pointes-Downtown Track map. Bill spent time in the Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.


Posted in Event Review, Opinion

COGS awards night 2019


I have been invited to hand out four awards on Friday, May 3rd at the Lawrencetown Fire Hall to graduates of COGS. They are two CANMAP awards, and two  Roger F. Tomlinson awards for excellence in GIS; one associated with Esri Redlands and the other with CANMAP. Given this unique opportunity, I thought that I would write a blog to share some of the history behind these relationships. If you are interested in more details, go to the web site

We have to go back to 1980.  At that time, COGS was called the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute (NSLSI). It was one of only a handful of technical institutes training surveyors in Canada. I arrived, with my young family, to establish a new program in Scientific Computer Programming (SCP) with Bruce Peveril. We purchased a Prime mini-computer. During the 1980’s we designed and delivered new programs in Business Computer Programming, Computer Graphics, GIS, and Remote Sensing. After eight years of contract employment, I was exhausted and we headed for Indonesia and later California.

With access to new digital technology, we were looking for application software. From my previous academic career at Memorial University, I was familiar with the mapping software from the Harvard Lab of Computer Graphics. I was also aware that Scott Morehouse had left Harvard to join Jack Dangermond in California at Esri. By chance, the Esri software Arc/Info and Grid ran on Prime computers.

John Wightman was Vice-Principal at NSLSI. John had previously been a Cartography instructor at NSLSI. John and Jim Doig (Principal) recognized the value of this new technology. He formed CANMAP (Centre for Advanced Numerical Mapping Applications) to apply the new technologies to government and industry projects in Nova Scotia. This was really the predecessor to the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) and the only mechanism to conduct applied research outside of the teaching environment. CANMAP made a profit. The CANMAP awards come from those funds.

In 1986, NSLSI changed its name to the College of Geographic Sciences (COGS) to better reflect the wider range of technologies in Lawrencetown. At that time, besides our industry relationship with Esri and Esri Canada, we had similar relationships with Geobase (Strings), TYDAC (Spans), Dipix and PCI.

When John instigated the name change, he consulted with his friend, and mentor, from Acadia University days, Roger Tomlinson. Roger taught Physical Geography at Acadia and John was his teaching assistant. Roger was running a Consulting Geographers business in Ottawa, called Tomlinson Associates.

Besides Roger’s fundamental role in the Canadian Geographic Information System (CGIS), he advised governments and industry on the implementation of GIS. Associates of Tomlinson included Ray Boyle (inventor of the digitizing table), Michael Goodchild (champion of Geographic Information Science) and myself (instructor at COGS). I worked with Roger on a number of GIS systems implementation for the New Brunswick government, the Nova Scotia government and the City of Ottawa.

In the 1980s diploma programs were three sixteen week semesters. The third semester was dedicated to a cooperative project with government or industry. When Alex Miller left MMM and formed Esri Canada he recruited from the SCP program: David Roscoe, John Houwelling and Eric Melanson. Almost all new Esri Canada installations hired COGS graduates to run their systems. David MacLean started his career with Alan Brackley at JD Irving in New Brunswick. We also started to send our graduates down to Redlands, California.

There is still a connection today. Current instructors: David MacLean, David Colville, Jim Verran all followed this pathway from the SCP program. Other graduates include Tim Webster, Kathleen Stewart, Joy Brown and Konrad Dramowicz. Many graduates find their first job with Esri or an Esri Canada customer.


Eventually, COGS became part of the NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) system. It was renamed the Centre of Geographic Sciences.

Today and beyond.

This year, the NSCC has announced a new $9M expansion of the Lawrencetown campus. How will that impact the curriculum, the instructors, the relationship between industry/government and community? Will we see a new relationship with the elders? There are over a dozen ex-COGS instructors living within a one hour drive of the campus. Will we follow Albert Marshall, Mi’kmaq concept and adopt ‘two-eyed seeing’? Will we see the residences used for international students? In the 1980’s we modelled ourselves on the ITC in the Netherlands. We worked with the Environmental Management Development Indonesia (EMDI) program at Dalhousie University. Today, we have a joint Masters degree in Applied Geomatics with Acadia University. There is a program at BIOTROP in Indonesia following the original COGS curriculum. What is their status today? Valerie Thomas and Stephen Rawlinson, both COGS graduates, went there as instructors for a year, to help with the technology transfer.

Will we continue to recruit both local instructors and instructors from the global market? What is the difference between research at AGRG, and research at COGS? What is the new equivalent company to Esri today? Is there a new Roger Tomlinson? Could it be Jon Murphy who is organizing the GeoIgnite conference in Ottawa next month? Jon is a COGS graduate.


Thanks to John Wightman and David MacLean for suggesting my name to present these four awards. I look forward to meeting the next generation of Geographic Scientists. I hope you enjoy this snapshot of history. Ted MacKinnon curates the site on my behalf. Edward Wedler, another ex-COGS instructor brings both his Remote Sensing teaching expertise and graphics skills to this blog. In memory of Pat Castel and Bill Power, both SCP instructors at COGS.