Posted in Video Review

BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal ?

Last Sunday, there was a screening of the documentary film BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal? at the United Church in Annapolis Royal.

The film was provided by the Ecology Action Centre. A full room watched the film. It was followed by a mediated discussion on the state of forestry in Nova Scotia.

The film showed the cutting of forests, primarily in the Southeast United States, their conversion into wood chips, and the shipping to European markets … BURNED.

‘The film tells the story of how woody biomass has become the fossil fuel industry’s renewable green saviour to climate change. Power plants in the UK and elsewhere have replaced coal with woody biomass. This allowed these countries, ostensibly, to meet their commitments to the Paris Accord on climate change.’

After the movie, Donna Crossland made a short presentation on the situation in Nova Scotia. This included the biomass plants in Pictou and Port Hawkesbury, the shipping of wood chips from Sheet Harbour. She also showed the extent of forest removal since 2000. This led to an audience discussion on the types of citizen action possible in Southwest Nova Scotia. When will the recommendations of the Lahey report be implemented ? What is the current level of cutting on crown land ? Randy Fredericks circulated a petition to save Hardwood Hill, a 30-40 hectare woodlot near Tupperville, Annapolis County (see Chronicle Herald p. A3, November 19,2018).

What can we do?

i) hold our elected representatives accountable?
ii) engage in citizen science?
iii) change the conversation away from resource economics? Treating the landscape as a commodity.

The next opportunity for accountability at the municipal level is November 28. Climate Change and the Human Prospect at Kings Theatre 7:30 pm. Both Warden, Timothy Habinski, and Councillor Gregory Heming will be available to answer questions.

According to the Department of Lands and Forestry, the online harvest plan map viewer lets the public know about potential future harvests on crown land, and people who sign up for direct notification will get an email each time a proposed harvest is posted (CH Nov 19 A3).

In BURNED, members of the Dogwood Alliance monitored the number of trucks, their load as they entered the biomass plants. The movement of wood products throughout Nova Scotia is a ‘geographic problem’. We know the sources. We know the possible destinations. Can we track the movements?

Before stands are harvested, we can use drones to fly over the stands. Can we conduct bio-blitz? That is an inventory of species. If the stands are harvested, we can monitor the quality of the work.

If Annapolis County is our main focus, we could request the engagement of faculty and students at the Centre of Geographic Sciences in this urgent ‘geographic problem’

From the documentary, the task is clearly beyond the local political arena. There are major vested business interests. We have to change the language: different voices, different skills, different values. Each of us, individually, and in community groups, must live and demonstrate the alternative. Can Annapolis County be the start of a movement for real change in Nova Scotia?

Looking for help and hope, I went to my bookshelves. I can recommend the writings of Stan Rowe and Doug Aberley in Canada, Mitchell Thomashow and Gary Snyder in the United States. They should be available through the wonderful services of inter-library loan, or from friends.


Edward Wedler for his remote technology expertise and contribution on graphics. Heather Stewart for her ecological insights and encouragement.


Lahey Report

Healthy Forest Coalition

Harvest Plan Map Viewer

Stan Rowe. 1990. Home Place. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press

Stan Rowe. 2006. Earth Alive. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press.

Doug Aberley (ed) 1993. Boundaries of Home. New Society Publishers

Mitchell Thomashow  1996. Ecological Identity. Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist. MIT Press.

Gary Snyder.1990. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press.

Paul  Ebenkamp (ed). 2010 The Etiquette of Freedom. Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison. The Practice of the Wild. Counterpoint. Includes DVD.

Posted in Video Review

Climate Change and the Human Prospect

Last night , Heather and I had the opportunity to see a screening of the documentary Climate Change and the Human Prospect produced by the Centre for Local Prosperity (CLP).

The screening was organized by the Municipality of Kings County in Kentville. The video was put together by Andrea Vandenboer, Visual Blueprint Productions of Annapolis Royal. It documents the vision from the retreat at the Thinker’s Lodge, Pugwash, Nova Scotia in late September 2017. The four-day retreat brought together over twenty thinkers from Atlantic Canada and beyond.

This story goes back to late Winter 2018 when we were snow-shoeing on South Mountain along the Rifle Range road, off the Inglisville Road. We discovered significant clear-cutting on crown land. Through local contacts, Neil Green agreed to take drone photography of the devastation. Later Neil was contacted by Andrea for permission to include his photography in the documentary.  Our interest was to see the drone footage within the context of Tim Habinski, Warden of Annapolis County, comments from the retreat.

Habinski stressed the importance of sustainable harvesting of our forested lands. He compared the cutting on South Mountain with the selective cutting on Windhorse Farm in Lunenburg County.

Andrea Vandenboer has created a very effective visual summary of the retreat. Some of the highlights for me were the comments by Albert Marshall, Mi’kmaq elder on the rights of Nature, as well as AV Singh on the need for decolonization of the mind. We were exposed to Michael Schurman on Project Drawdown and Adam Fenech on sea level rise in PEI. There is much more in the 43-minute video.

The audience reaction in Kentville was on the follow-up actions. There was interest in alternative energy, especially Energize Bridgewater and their vision of the future. Mayor, Peter Muttart described a number of the Kings County initiatives. A second reaction was the need to share the documentary vision with the younger generations. The film deserves to be seen by larger and more diverse audiences across rural Nova Scotia. Thus, action should include screenings in small communities, schools and college/university This will generate conversations about local stories. the roles of the CLP and the provincial and municipal governments.

A final note. On returning home, I received a call about relocating the bottle recycling plant from Middleton to Lawrencetown. Thinking about the question, I realized that ‘Geography Matters’. While recycling facilities exist at Greenwood and Annapolis Royal, Lawrencetown is approximately in the middle. The behaviour of rural citizens is to go to Middleton for shopping, and so drop off used bottles there. Can we change behaviour?

As we look at possible action within the context of the retreat vision on ‘Climate Change and the Human Prospect’ in rural Nova Scotia, it is important to recognize that ‘Geography Matters’. There is a strong ‘sense of place‘. We must also respect the rights of Nature. My conclusion is that innovation will happen at a community by community level. That is why we must share our stories.


Appreciation to Peter Muttart, Municipality of Kings County for the video screening and follow up discussion. Andrea Vandenboer for notification of the event.


The book Drawdown. Drawdown

The film ‘Albatross’ Albatross

Posted in Video Review

Reconciling with the Land

celticColours2018GuideLast weekend in Cape Breton, we picked up a copy of the Celtic Colours 2018 Festival Guide. The festival runs from October 5-13th. Their banner message is;

our culture lives – not in a country or a landscape – but in the fingers, the voice, the feet, and the heart“.

The guide includes an excellent map showing the official events, the learning opportunities, outdoor events, participatory events, farmers’ markets, visual art/heritage crafts, community meals and local food products.

Returning home, I recalled receiving the June newsletter from the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association. It includes the links to two videos. The first, by Stan and Tom Johnson, Reconciling the Land and Each Other.

And a second, presented at the annual Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association meeting this Summer on Indigenous Circle.

This takes Heather and I back to the submission of the nomination document for the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve (SNBR) to UNESCO, Man and Biosphere (MAB) program, in 2001. The nomination for Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve (BLBR) was in 2011.

In 2018, we have a very different political context.  What is the relationship with the Mi’kmaq in Southwest Nova Scotia? The biosphere reserve includes the counties: Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne and Queens. The core area is Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. Do we see the same reconciliation with the land and each other, in SNBR, as found in BLBR? Do they produce a monthly newsletter?

With regard to the Celtic Colours message, are we in agreement, that we can separate our culture from the landscape?


To Edward Wedler and Heather Stewart for their continued support.


2018 Celtic Colours Festival Guide. Website

Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Highlights newsletter. Vol.2 Number 5. June 26, 2018

Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere website

Southwest Nova Biosphere website

Posted in Nature, Video Review

Community monitoring of the landscape

Towering log pile

Last Thursday (January 18th), Heather and I decided to go snow-shoeing along the Rifle Range road, off the Inglisville Road. We have been doing this trip for the last fifteen or so years. Imagine our surprise, when we discovered that our outdoor recreation route had been turned into a logging road (see photographs). Curious, we persisted to see what was going on. We found signs that indicated that the parcel of crown land was being logged by a local forestry company, under the WestFor agreement with the provincial Department of Natural Resources.

We took some photographs, and shared our discovery with a few friends and neighbours. Dave Whitman, who also lives on Hwy#201 in Paradise, an author and publisher with his wife Paulette, including books on the ‘lost village’ of Roxbury, mentioned a local photographer, Neil Green. Neil has been experimenting with the use of drones for landscape photography.

UAV images over Annapolis County Clear Cut
UAV image captures over Annapolis County Clear Cut [click on image for link to video]
Imagine our surprise, forty eight hours later, we received a video of the clear-cutting on South Mountain, towards Eel Weir Lake. Neil also shared some of his landscape videography along the Annapolis River.

This raised many questions in my mind.

  1. With this new technology, can citizen groups monitor the changes impacting our landscape ?
  2. Our warden for Annapolis County, Tim Habinski is on record (CBC) about the clearcutting on crown land in the County. Could this technology give us a better picture of the current situation ? And allow, evidence-based decision making ?
  3. Given the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown, would the college be willing to support research in the creation of maps so that citizens could monitor the activities in their own backyard ?
  4. We own a small, narrow woodlot with our son, Andrew. It runs from the Annapolis River to the Inglisville Road. Could we commission Neil Green or others to fly the property as part of our woodlot management strategy. For example, we could monitor the red maple coppicing by Alex Cole, Little Foot Yurts for yurt poles on Andrew’s parcel. Or we could map the mature hemlocks on the hillside on our parcel, above the Hwy #201.
Road to the clear cut

These questions could lead us to discover new opportunities. With the technology, UAVs, cameras and GPS it is now possible to develop a much better understanding of the  landscape, its use or abuse, whether it is agriculture, forestry or recreation. Maybe its time to champion the full value of the landscape. Let us view our environment as something that offers so much more than a simple monetary value ($$$$).


Thanks to Heather Stewart for reminding me of our landscape values. Dave Whitman for the connection to Neil Green. Neil for his drone photography explorations. And finally, as usual, to Edward Wedler for his feedback and technology expertise on the web.

Posted in Video Review

From Walnut Grove to Growing Walnuts: two complementary psychogeographies.

Walnut Grove lies in the Township of Langley, British Columbia, between the United States border and the Fraser River.

Like many communities in Southern Canada, the roads follow a grid pattern: streets run North/South and the avenues run East/West. On arrival, our first task  was to re-learn how to navigate this dense man-made, built landscape.

In Nova Scotia, we are looking to grow walnuts on our property in Paradise, Annapolis County. There, the challenge is to fully understand the fine mosaic of plant habitats, related to slope, aspect, soil and climate conditions. The book by Hart surfaced the concept of forest gardening.

Within the context of visiting grandchildren, we had been given the opportunity to explore a man-made, urban landscape and to compare it to our knowledge of a rural landscape.

9780394521046-usWhile in BC, and being in the Fraser Valley, I took the opportunity to check out the current work of Hugh Brody. Brody is the Canada Research Chair in Anthropology at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford. He is likely best known to Geographers for his book Maps and Dreams, published in 1981. From his web site, I noticed that he had recently given a talk at the Audain Gallery, Simon Fraser University. Fortunately, his talk is available as a video online. The subject was the indigenous knowledge of the land by the Dunne-Za in North East British Columbia, The one hour video talks, in terms, of invisibility, dreams, art, making the invisible visible, cultural mapping, and the importance of knowledge of the land in a traditional hunter/gatherer society. His original field work was completed in the late ’70’s.

The end result was, on returning home, to pull from the bookcase, my copy of The Other Side of Eden, written in 2000.

I highly recommend watching the video. Hopefully, your Internet service is not too slow. In Canada, not only can we enjoy the many different landscapes, we have the opportunity to appreciate a wide range of traditional knowledge of the land, described, in this case by anthropologist/writer/film maker, Hugh Brody.

Thanks again, to Edward Wedler for his help with the graphics and feedback on the earlier draft


Hugh Brody.  1981. Maps and Dreams.; Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. Douglas and McIntyre.

Hugh Brody. 2000. The Other Side of Eden. Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World. Douglas and McIntyre.

Robert A. de J. Hart. 1996. Forest Gardening. Chelsea Green Publishers.

Malachy Tallack. 2016. Sixty Degrees North. Around the World in Search of Home. Pegasus Books, New York. Book Review describes it as one of new genre of travel writers on psychogeography.