Posted in Opinion

Spring forward

Edward Wedler in his postscript (previous blog post) referenced the link between art and science to address public awareness of climate change. This connects well with the work of the Centre for Local Prosperity and their climate change video, as well as installations by Uncommon Common Art in Kings County.

The Ancestral Landscape of Sikniktuk.
The Ancestral Landscape of Sikniktuk. Map by Marcel Morin.

Last week, I turned the page on my Esri Canada calendar, and noticed for March 2019, the map by Marcel Morin, Lost Art Cartography of the ancestral landscape of the Sikniktuk. It shows the dykes and aboiteaux in the Chignecto region, Cumberland County.

If we want to maintain the dykelands of Nova Scotia, we must understand the risk from sea level rise. A recent example was the destruction of an aboiteau outside of Hantsport, leading to flooding of the river valley.

We need to combine the latest science on climate change, with new LiDAR-based topographic maps, combined with the art of cartography to gain a broader understanding of the impact on our landscape.

ebles_1Yesterday, we held a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Events Society (EBLES) board over on the Bay of Fundy shore. In preparation for the program design for June 29th, it was necessary to read some of the related literature.

Barbara Pell’s book A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley offered the following quotations.

“Margaret Atwood told us in 1972:

‘Literature is not only a mirror, it is also a map, a geography of the mind. Our literature is one such map, if we can learn to read it as OUR literature, as the product of who and where we have been.’ p.13

“As contemporary political debates continue to illustrate, regionalism has always been a distinguishing feature of Canadian identity and literature. The Mountain and the Valley joins a long tradition of Maritime fiction that idyllically and elegiacally celebrates rural Atlantic Canada.’ p.14

” in its evocation of geography and history, it touches themes of universal importance. Buckler saw the advantages of his regional setting “In the Nova Scotia country,…… you get the universals more than almost anywhere else”.p.14

This afternoon, Heather and I are heading up to the Gaspereau Valley and Avondale to join a tour by Solar Nova Scotia on alternative designs for solar homes. Perhaps Spring is not far away.


To Anne Crossman for her storehouse of Buckler books. To Edward Wedler for his enthusiastic championing of science-meets-art. To Jane Borecky for hosting the EBLES board meeting.


Barbara Pell 1995. A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley. ECW Press.

Marcel Morin, Lost Art Cartography. Contribution to the Esri Canada 2019 calendar March.

Posted in Opinion

Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County

Inspired by Uncommon Common Art in Kings County, I thought it might be useful to propose a list of locations for Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County. The two would be complementary. Uncommon Common Art has about seventeen stops, plus a few “eye candy” locations. There are related events that extend from June to the end of October.

unCommonCommonScienceACHere is a suggested list of Uncommon Common Science stops in Annapolis County.

  1. Geomatics (Centre of Geographic Sciences: Lawrencetown)
  2. Geomatics (Applied Geomatics Research Group: Middleton)
  3. Dark Sky Preserve (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  4. Blandings Turtle (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  5. Coastal Plain Species (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  6. Coastal Geology (Bay of Fundy )
  7. Space Agency (Annapolis Royal)
  8. Mi’kmaq Science (Bear River)
  9. Historical and Graveyard Science (Annapolis Royal)
  10. Bay of Fundy Tides
  11. Bloody Creek meteor crater
  12. CARP, Clean Annapolis River Project (Annapolis Royal)

Can you offer an uncommon common science stop in Annapolis County or Annapolis Valley — some local science worth exploring?

Posted in Opinion

Rediscovering Rural

On Friday, battling icy roads, we held a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES) at Burnbrae Farm in Paradise. Simone and Erik provided us with hot coffee and biscuits.map_Hunter_1000w

The meeting was to learn about their plans for the Morse Estate and Camp Hillis and to see the potential for future literary events. We were operating in a two-fold context. Ernest Buckler had written The Cruelest Month. Image result for Ernest Buckler had written The Cruelest MonthIt describes a group of writers who go to Endlaw (an anagram for Walden), a country estate twenty miles from Granfort (aka Annapolis Royal). Buckler in his teenage years had spent time working at a similar resort in New England. Was the Morse Estate, part of Bucklers’  mental model?

The second context was that the Morse family published several books in the 1920s describing the local geography of this part of the Annapolis Valley. We also knew something about the history of Camp Hillis, a government-run facility for children with various challenges.  When the property came up for sale next door, Simone and Erik decided to purchase.  They are starting renovations this Summer.

After a couple of hours of discussion and a tour, we settled on a plan of action. First, we need to research more fully Buckler’s book as well as the Morse books. Sandra Barry who has been a long time member of the Elizabeth Bishop Society, described the ‘power of reading Bishop’s work, in situ, in the houses and rooms in Great Village’. We can envisage something similar at the Morse Estate. The new owners have already been in contact with the Morse family and have a number of historic photographs and letters.

The potential of Camp Hillis remains uncharted. Many children spent time at the camp. They would have stories. They would be familiar with the grounds, the house, dormitories etc. It could offer a similar outdoor experience today.

From the EBLES perspective, these buildings and their stories offer a unique writers retreat. Different, but not dissimilar, to what the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has achieved at Great Village.

To my mind, these places exemplify ‘experiential rural tourism’, where the visitor can be immersed in both, the local landscape and also the stories related to that landscape and its history.


To the EBLES Board: Jane Borecky, Anne Crossman supplemented by Sandra Barry, Bill Crossman and Heather Stewart. Your insights and ideas are always a joy. To Simone and Erik, we appreciate your enthusiasm and investment in this part of rural Nova Scotia. Edward for his graphics contribution.



Burnbrae Farm and Paradise Inn. see website

Ernest Buckler. 1963. The Cruelest Month.  McClelland and Stewart.

For books by  William Morse see my earlier blog (November 28, 2018).

PS. This weekend, Heather and I head to the Flying Apron. It is an annual pilgrimage in celebration of my birthday (see last year blog). Another fine example of experiential rural tourism.

Posted in Opinion

Where are they now?

worldglobe_cogsThe photograph from David Hildebrand of the GIS class of 1986 set me off on a research path. According to my records, the graduates were, as follows:

Student Name                     First Job on Graduation (Company, Location)
xxxxxxxx                              xxxxxxxxx

I have removed their names and first jobs for reasons of privacy.


Faculty who were teaching in the GIS program.
Pat Castel
Bob Maher
David Colville

This was not the first time we prepared graduates for the GIS industry. Indeed, as part of the Scientific Computer Programming program, since 1980, we had been using GIS software as the application environment.

Just imagine, we graduated twelve+ students per year, for thirty-two years. That amounts to 384 employees for that industry. It begs David Hildebrand’s question: where are they now? Some likely remained in the industry, others likely changed careers several times. Many may no longer need to work, or are no longer with us.

In the world of social media (Facebook and LinkedIn) it should be possible to create a network of these graduates. Indeed GIS is only one technology, one program within the Geomatics cluster. In the 1980s COGS boasted three departments: Survey Engineering, Cartography and Planning, and Computer Programming.

Could a Freedom of Information (FOI) request be made to the NSCC to populate a database of these alumni? Or if the NSCC maintained the database, individuals could self identify with the College, and perhaps add their own biography and story.

In recent years, we have seen the creation of the business, GoGeomatics, by COGS graduate Jonathan Murphy. GoGeomatics hosts socials at many of the urban centres across the country. This allows interaction between Geomatics professionals within different regions. Recently, GoGeomatics has announced a new national conference, GeoIgnite in Ottawa on June 18-19th 2019.

geoignite_2These socials and the national conference are but one mechanism for sharing ideas, experiences and business opportunities. If NSCC supported a COGS alumni database, we can envisage the engagement of this resource, shared stories and examples of the application of Geomatics technology to many of the concerns of both rural and urban Canadians. Indeed the reach is global. Many of our graduates moved to the United States and elsewhere; others found jobs working on global environmental issues.

Blog Update:

This week, I have been reading David Manners book Convenient Season. It is set in the pre-Second World War era. It describes life in the Annapolis Valley from the viewpoint of a young American man, who rediscovers his country roots. There are detailed descriptions of the weather, small town living in Bridgetown, Centrelea, Round Hill.

This takes me back. When Heather and I arrived here in Summer 1980 with two young boys, we rented the old Ernest Buckler house from Bill O’Neill up in West Dalhousie. That Winter, I commuted down the mountain to teach at the NSLSI in Lawrencetown. What has changed from David Manners description of Valley life? Well, there has been a change in the climate. But the trees, the birds are very much the same. There are still many families trying to live close to the land and sea. Convenient Season? Why that title? Think about what has, and has not, changed. Every year, a new group of students arrive at COGS. They find themselves immersed in a rural lifestyle, combined with modern learning technology. Life. School. House. (


Thanks to Edward for his advice on Internet privacy, and also the graphics


David J. Manners. 1941. Convenient Season. EP Dutton, New York.



Posted in Opinion

Wallander and the RID fund

Wallander is a BBC production, available on the CBC channel, about a detective solving murder crimes in Sweden. It combines problem-solving (joining the dots) with personal life issues, set in  a rural landscape. This scenario reminds me of living in rural Nova Scotia and attempting to understand the day to day political culture.

The Rural Innovation District (RID) fund is one of three funds administered by the NSCC. The other two funds are designed to address  innovation ecosystems in metro Halifax and Cape Breton. The ‘rural district’ refers to the geography of all of rural Nova Scotia, excluding the metropolitan areas.

Thinking about the ‘rural district’ and the community college, there are a significant number of non-metro campuses across Nova Scotia. If we were to address the needs of Annapolis County then the primary campuses would be COGS in Lawrencetown and the Middleton site. If we wanted to understand the innovation culture in this part of rural Nova Scotia, we would look at new directions in the business culture, the non-profit sector, as well as ongoing community initiatives.

Given this challenge, there would be two basic, first steps:

  1. establish a network of partners who could define the needs of Annapolis County;
  2. analyse the resources at both campuses that could be deployed to meet these needs.

My mental model would have two components:

a) a place-based education network (PEN)

b) a collaborative innovation laboratory (CIL)

These would be combined to form PENCIL. A pencil is a tool. It is used for both writing and drawing. With this concept, we would be able to ‘join the dots’. We could identify potential partners and test solutions to specific problems within a laboratory environment at the college. This has been tried in the past with the ACOA funded Business Incubation Centre on the Middleton campus. The difference, in this case, is that the community partners define the issues that need to be addressed, and work collaboratively with the campus resources.

The other difference is a ‘place-based’ education approach. This means that the issues are determined by the conditions in the local landscape. This could include forestry, agriculture, fisheries, culture, tourism, social and economic development. It might involve innovative approaches to science and technology.

Rather than expect the agenda to be driven by the college, allow the local geography to determine the issues. If the PENCIL concept works in one rural location, then look to the possibility of a modified version in a different geography. The key ingredients are a place-based education network and support for a collaborative innovation laboratory. It could be piloted in Annapolis County.

Perhaps we can get the BBC to produce a film series here. The new star might be Gordonstoun Nova Scotia.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year !


To all friends and associates, who have encouraged me, all year, in writing this blog.


Wallander. Kenneth Branagh plays the Detective Kurt Wallander.

Rural Innovation District Fund Rural Innovation District Fund

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.

Posted in Opinion

Community Innovation

This week, I have run into the term ‘community innovation’ in two different contexts.annapolisValleySatelliteView_communityInovation First, in last week’s Annapolis Spectator there was an interview with Bill Crossman about a project to install solar panels at the Centrelea Community Hall site. Second, at the latest Valley REN (Regional Economic Network) board meeting, Gerard D’Entremont was appointed Vice-Chair of the Board. In his introduction, Gerard described his position at (Nova Scotia Community College) NSCC Kingstec as the Community Innovation lead for the Annapolis Valley region. Intrigued, I requested a meeting this week with him at the Green Elephant in Kingston to learn more about this initiative.

The reason for my interest was simple. I see myself as a member of the rural community of Paradise and its surrounding geography. In my pre-retirement capacity, I was both an educator and a research scientist. Thus, I appreciated the function of innovation in both research and business. I am also familiar with the role of applied research and its potential benefit to our geography (i.e. local communities and landscape).

My conversations with Bill and Gerard has led to the following questions.

a) What issues (problems) defined by the community can be addressed by innovation?

b) Can we find innovative solutions in our community that can be applied across the larger landscape? For example, can all community hall sites support solar panels?

c) Given the mandate of the NSCC:  who defines/owns ‘community innovation’?

d) With the type of specialist resources at COGS and AGRG what innovative approaches can be applied to economic development in rural communities?

e) Should the approach be restricted to economic issues?

f) What about social issues? or environmental issues?

g) Who gets to select the issues?

Seven years ago, I remember trying to engage local municipalities in the concept of a ‘community information utility’. The idea was to organize and maintain information about the assets of rural Nova Scotia. This included both its geography and its people. How many opportunities have been missed because the information was not readily available to potential investors?

To end on a positive note, there are a couple of upcoming events.

  1. the Centre for Local Prosperity is hosting two events next weekend in Shelburne and Hubbards. October 20th Expanding Community Wealth: re-localizing strong economies for Shelburne County. NSCC Shelburne Campus Cafeteria 9-3:30 pm and October 21 Expanding Community Wealth through Import Replacement. 2:30-4:30 Ocean Swells Community Centre, Hubbards.
  2. October 24 th., at the Kings Municipal building, Kentville there will be a showing of the video. Climate Change and the Human Prospect. 6:30-8:00 pm


Thanks to Bill Crossman for showing the way, by ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ and to Gerard D’Entremont for sharing his understanding of ‘community innovation’ at the NSCC.


Posted in Opinion

A Question of Scale

In the blog Follow the Thread (August 10th) I talked about Scale. Since that time, the last two blogs have looked at the writing of Roy on the global scale (Capitalism: a Ghost Story) and the writing of Bishop on the local scale (her memories of Great Village).

Last week in conversation with Celes Davar, we talked about trends in the tourism industry. This included the concepts of experiential and sustainable tourism, as well the traditional measures of a success — the number of visitors, overnight stays, expenditures, etc.

scaleStepping back, I recognized that, consciously or not, we are thinking at multiple scales. Within a geographic framework, this can mean:

Rural Nova Scotia (Annapolis Valley) Municipal government
Urban Nova Scotia (Halifax) Provincial government
Maritimes (regional view). In comparison to Ontario, BC
Canada (national view) In comparison to the US, Europe, Asia
Global. International agencies

If we are looking at tourism in the Annapolis Valley, what is the influence of provincial and national strategies for attracting tourists from other countries e.g. China, Europe? The same would be true in terms of immigration policies.

A related question is the flow of information. Is it a two-way flow? Are the views of the citizens reflected at the municipal scale? Do municipal tourism concerns appear on the provincial agenda? If climate change is a global concern, how is it reflected as you move down the geographic scale to rural Nova Scotia? Do contradictions arise, as you move across the different scale?

When considering the writing of Elizabeth Bishop or Ernest Buckler, it is appealing to think in terms of local geography. However, it is important to appreciate that Bishop spent much of her life in Brazil, the United States and Europe. Buckler went away from Nova Scotia before returning to write about the Mountain and the Valley.

Given access to social media, is it easier today to operate simultaneously at several levels of scale? Certainly, it is easier to network with colleagues and relatives across continents and oceans in semi-real time. Thus comparisons are more readily available. If that is, indeed, the case, what is being lost? What is being gained?

Is it possible to pay attention to detail at multiple scales simultaneously? Or do we need to focus on the local; a particular place and geography?

A corollary is that, as the result of lifetime mobility, the voice of the rural citizen can be informed by experiences from many parts of the world or at different scales. This information flow can be maintained, even though the individual chooses to live in a rural landscape, close to the soil and nature.

Thanks to the  conversation with Celes Davar, email from Sandra Barry, and the graphics of Edward Wedler.


Celes Davar.  Check website

Recent blogs

Geography III: place, writing and maps. Posted August 23rd

Community Engagement: a Ghost Story. Posted August 15th

Follow the Thread.  Posted August 10th


Posted in Book Review, Opinion

Community Engagement: a ghost story

bookCover_capitalAGhostStoryThis blog was inspired by Arundhati Roy’s book Capitalism. A Ghost Story. It is a collection of short stories about life in India. Indeed, it is a VERY scary book [Youtube interview with Arundhati Roy], especially if we look South of the border, to the United States.

In a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP‘. p.7

At the opposite end of the demographic spectrum, we have rural Nova Scotia. I have identified a few of the concerns that have crossed my desk in the last week or two.

The Municipality of Annapolis County is seeking a solution to the demand for high-speed Internet. Meanwhile, i-Valley is evaluating different alternatives.

The provincial Department of Natural Resources has responsibility for forest practices across the province. A recent hike along North Mountain, above Bridgetown, illustrated the challenges faced by both humans and wildlife, in traversing the trash left by clearcutting. We still await the Lahey report; an independent review of forest practices in Nova Scotia.

econous2018On the economic development front, The Centre for Local Prosperity is promoting EconoUS 2018 in its latest newsletter, as ‘an economy that works for all‘.

We are beset by water quality issues, related to our geology, giving us high levels of arsenic and uranium, especially on South Mountain.

Today, the Municipality of Annapolis County is threatening to withdraw from Valley Waste Resources. Thus we may lose our garbage delivery. This information has been conveyed through an online newsletter and video.

We live in a world with a multitude of multi-media communication tools; be it podcasts, YouTube video, online courses, Twitter, LinkedIn or FaceBook.

The uncertainty, defined through these technologies, can lead to an increase in anxiety for our rural communities. They may lead to a false sense of community engagement. This aligns well with the picture described by Roy, under a plutocratic Capitalism in India where a small group of individuals or organizations are controlling the lives of a rural population. These new technologies can be used to improve the health of communities or they can be used to exploit the community resources. The choice is ours. Again, a VERY scary proposition — A Ghost story.

As usual, thanks to Edward Wedler for his editorial comments and graphics.


Arundhati Roy.2014. Capitalism. A Ghost Story. Haymarket Books.

Centre for Local Prosperity. Newsletter dated August 13, 2018

The Municipality of Annapolis County. Newsletter and video. Referenced August 13, 2018.

Posted in Opinion

Follow the Thread

Reflecting upon the use of GIS at the municipal level, I felt that it was time to do some background research. GISThreadI had noted that Chris Turner at BlueJack Consulting had developed a web GIS application for the Eastern Shore. Likely my best resource would be Eric Melanson at Esri Canada in Halifax. Eric was a COGS graduate from the ’80’s.

Eric provided me three links to East Hants, St John, NB and Maple Ridge, BC. Later, he added Cumberland County and mentioned Cape Breton. My specific interest was GIS in rural Nova Scotia.

To go further, I contacted Brent Hall at Esri Canada, Toronto. Brent is Director, Education and Research, after an academic career at the University of Waterloo and Otago. Brent was able to refer me to a number of materials coming from Esri, California. In particular, podcasts, videos, online magazine articles. This made me realize:

a) there was a new generation of tools and products under the ArcGIS Hub brand;

b) since I had been away from the technology, companies like Esri were using a variety of multi-media tools to reach their target audience.

bookCover_scaleAt the end of my thread, I listened to a podcast by Geoffrey West. He had written a book, called Scale. In particular, West talks about scale in terms of large cities and companies. Of course, my interest was at the opposite end of the spectrum. What happens in rural Canada? These areas lack the diversity of our urban areas and thus are extremely vulnerable to the effects of change.

After a conversation with Simeon Roberts, he sent me a copy of the Municipal Affairs Business Plan 2017-2018. One of their priorities is:

‘Develop for consideration a new model for the Regional Enterprise Network program that supports ONE Nova Scotia economic growth, youth workforce attachment and rural entrepreneurship’

bookCover_NSbusinessplanAnd further:

‘Bring more datasets in the Nova Scotia Geospatial Infrastructure to support and promote land use planning and economic development, build data management tools and a viewer to deliver data to RENs and Municipal Units’.

Joining the dots, it would seem imperative that there should be an analysis of the use of GIS technology by the different municipal units across the province. At a minimum, this should include East Hants, Cumberland, the Eastern Shore and Cape Breton This type of cross-comparison would seem to be essential as part of the development of a new model for the REN program.

In addition, faculty and students at COGS should be familiar with the application of technologies like QGIS and ArcGIS Hub so that they have the necessary expertise, as we follow the thread.


For planning purpose, there will always be the need for good geographic information about our landscape and its use, whether that is agriculture, forestry or municipal development.


I have appreciated the electronic and face-to-face conversations with Simeon Roberts, Eric Melanson, Brent Hall, Doug Foster, Jeff Wentzell. The opinions, of course,  remain my own. Thanks to Edward Wedler for his graphic response.


Chris Turner.  Check online Bluejack Consulting.

Eric Melanson

Cumberland County

City of St John

East Hants

Maple Ridge

Brent Hall

Check Andrew Turner, Constituent Engagement. A World Tour of ArcGIS Hub Sites

Also check podcast Geoffrey West January 11/2018 The Fundamentals of Growth and Transformation: companies and cities

Check WhereNext magazine.

Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs.  Business Plan. 2017-2018.