The three Parks Canada bureaucrats who tag-teamed an illustrated talk at tonight’s ninth annual Sable Island Update faced a skeptical, though not overtly hostile, audience.
The first time Canadians heard about plans to turn Sable Island into a National Park, Jim Prentice, environment minister at the time, launched into an addle-pated discourse on how great a park would be for private businesses that could could ferry boatloads of tourists out to Sable and put them up for the night in hotels.
You want to hope this was a spontaneous outburst by a know-nothing minister, but with Harper’s crew, who can be sure? Parks Canada bureaucrats have struggled ever since to convince Sable’s large, passionate constituency that they are not the advance guard for a mob of gun-toting Reform Party vandals bent on paving Sable and putting up Ferris wheels.
In the process, they appear to have persuaded the naturalist and longtime Sable champion Zoe Lucas. (Disclosure: Zoe and I have been friends for years.)
In her talk last night, Zoe, who is principal organizer of the meeting, gave her usual fascinating and witty précis of events on Sable over the last 18 months—a spell-binding catalog of weather highlights, scientific discoveries, critter strandings, beach debris, and whatnot. She followed this with a useful history of tourism to the island, gently driving home the point that people have always visited Sable (albeit in small numbers) and properly managed, such visits cause little damage while helping build the passionate constituency for conservation that is Sable’s best protection from Cretins like Prentice.
Zoe and I have not spoken about this, but it appeared to me that she and the Parks Canada officials charged with setting up the new park have established a productive and mutually respectful relationship. This has not always been the case. Zoe is a woman of strong views and a willingness to express them. She has not always enjoyed a blissful rapport with Sable’s federal overseers.
In their presentation, the Parks Canada officials made the obligatory gestures you would expect toward Zoe’s revered role as unofficial steward of the island, including the invaluable scientific work she has carried out over nearly four decades. Beyond that, they peppered their inventory of preparations for park status with signals they have been listening, and thinking about imaginative ways to fulfill Parks Canada’s mandate to provide visitor opportunities without wrecking the place.
Two small examples: They hope to get Google to carry out Street View mapping of the island, so Sable buffs can treat themselves to virtual tours from the comfort of their living rooms. When challenged about regulations that ban petroleum drilling on the island, but permit seismic testing, they agreed with a marine geologist in the audience that sufficient seismic testing has already been carried out, and it’s unlikely future tests would be permitted.
I don’t want to go overboard here. The trio of officials did sometimes lapse into practiced talking points whose purpose was to mollify, rather than inform. They professed not to remember what the park’s annual budget was, but when pressed (by me) they agreed to give Zoe this information for publication on her Green Horse Society website (specifically, the park’s 2013-2014 annual budget, and the annual operating budget they expect once startup costs are behind them).
I’m no @Tim_Bousquet, but I did my best to live-tweet the event. With occasional help from seat-mate Alan Ruffman, I think I did capture the gist of most, if not all, the questions. You can find these tweets by searching for my Twitter handle (@kempthead) or the hashtag #Sable. Those outside the Twitter realm can view the live-tweets in bullet form after the jump. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, reading from the bottom up will give you my account in chronological order. Errors and omissions are mine.
Like me, Contrarian reader Stan Jones voted at one of the continuous advance polling stations his riding (though presumably he did so sans caméra). These polls were among the innovations Elections Nova Scotia introduced to combat flagging turnout, by making it easier for people to vote. They proved popular, but as Jones points out, they had the unintended consequence of lessening the analytical usefulness of poll-by-poll returns:
[I]t does seem to complicate poll-by-poll analysis, since it looks to me as if all those votes are reported with the Returning Office as the poll, rather than some district poll.
For example, in Yarmouth, some 1,660 votes were recorded at the RO, about 19 percent of the total. Another 685 were recorded at the two scheduled advance polls. In all, 27 percent of the votes can’t be associated with a particular area poll.
This didn’t matter too much in Yarmouth, where Zach Churchill copped 82 percent of the votes cast—as Jones points out, he had more votes at the advance polls than the second place finisher, Tory John Cunningham had in the entire district—but it would make analysis more difficult in ridings where the vote was closer.
Jones thinks the relative compactness of the Yarmouth riding may have increased take-up at the continuous poll, aided by some special factors:
Lots (and lots) of people were on Main Street in downtown Yarmouth for the street hockey tournament during the election and the RO is just a block off Main Street. It was easy to drop in to the RO between games (that’s what I did). It might also have helped that the Yarmouth Corral (a very popular local mobile food truck) was parked right across of the RO during the tournament – I had a pulled pork sandwich right after I voted.
Truly, all politics is local, right down to the pulled pork sandwich. Turnout in Yarmouth was 65 percent, versus 59 percent province-wide.
In the ridings I checked, a significant portion of the ballots were cast at riding offices, continuous polls, or scheduled advance polls where they could not be tied to a geographic location. In Sydney-Whitney Pier, where the contest was thought to be close, 30 percent voted in non-geotagged polling stations. In vast Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie, 20 percent; equally far-flung Victoria the Lakes, also 20 percent; Antigonish, 37 percent; Argyle, 17 percent.; Glace Bay, 34 percent.
The CBRM Works Department has made improvements at 322 George St….
… but prudent motorists would do well to remember this antique internet chestnut:
H/T: Tara Camus and Framework Cycle and Fitness
Dan Conlin has kept track of the trick-or-treaters who called at his Duncan St., Halifax, home for the last 17 years. Yesterday’s numbers showed a modest uptick, but the overall trend is dramatic and downward:
This year’s visitors began arriving at 5:35 pm, peaked at 7 p.m., and had vanished into the night by 8:15. Vampires, Princesses, and Ninjas led the parade, at six each.
Only one cat made an appearance, likely the one pictured, feline fancier Rosa Eileen Barss Donham, who lives one street over from Dan.
Conlin gives his Best Overall Costume Award to an eight-year-old walking box of Ritz Crackers, English in front, Français au verso, with nutritional information on the side. Nutritional information about lard pills—what a card!
[See correction and clarification at end.] Two months ago, Atlantic journalists James and Deborah Fallows began traveling around the United States in a small plane, visiting relatively obscure cities in a quest to find out what makes some thrive while others struggle.
They spent much of last week in Eastport, Maine, hard up against the New Brunswick border. Jim’s initial blog posts bespeak a community well on the way to recovery, populated by leaders determined to go the distance. Since Eastport shares much in common with struggling Atlantic port communities, Maritimers might want to perk up their ears.
In a post last week, and again on the weekend, Jim focused on two factors residents believe will play a role in Eastport’s potential for economic prosperity: the depth of its harbour, and its proximity to Europe.
As you’ll hear, a group of ambitious people in the city are trying to use the port’s unique capacity — and its proximity to Europe, and its potential proximity to Asia as northwest passages through a warming Canadian arctic become more frequent (they are already happening) — as one foundation of its hoped-for economic revival.
As mentioned yesterday — and as cited non-stop by local port authorities — Eastport has the deepest natural harbor in the continental United States, at 60+ feet. Its siting, “remote” from the rest of America’s perspective, is also a potential strategic plus.
To buttress the point, he offered three maps, created by the nifty online Great Circle Mapper, showing how much closer to Europe Eastport is than Boston, New York, or Miami. And not just from Europe, but from the African ports of Casablanca and Dakar. Here’s the London map:
Compared to Boston, Eastport has the potential to save vessels more than 500 miles* in a round trip to London; 900 miles when compared to New York. All that means time, fuel, and money saved. Similar maps made the same point with the two African ports.
All this rang a bell with David Ryan, a Long Island, filmmaker, boat builder, and yachtsman, who happens to be a mutual friend of Jim’s and mine. In an email to both of us, he wrote:
I heard the same thing when we were in Port Hastings [on the Strait of Canso in Cape Breton Island], Nova Scotia, back around 2003. There was no reason a local should have been telling me in particular that they had 60 feet of water, were ice-free year round, and right on one of Canada’s main train arteries, yet I was; so I take it this is something that all Post Hastings boosters tell anyone and everyone who visits.
One curious feature of the superport formed by the eastern half of the Strait of Canso is that it was accidental. Construction of the 4,544 ft, rock-filled causeway connecting Cape Breton Island to the mainland in 1955 had the unanticipated result of creating an ice-free, deepwater harbour. This image from Google Earth shows how the causeway traps the seasonal ice flowing down from the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, keeping the deep waterway east of the causeway free from ice. Voilà! A superport.
For a time, the superport turned the nearby community of Port Hawkesbury into something of a boom town, albeit one that never quite lived up to its potential. An oil refinery, a gypsum plant, and a heavy water plant all eventually failed—
the heavy water plant spectacularly so**—but the paper mill still operates at reduced capacity, as does a tank farm, a bulk coal facility, and a massive rock quarry. Together they make Port Hawkesbury Canada’s second largest port by tonnage, after Vancouver. A biomass electrical generating station officially opens in Port Hawkesbury this Wednesday, but hopes for a container terminal remain elusive (though not as elusive as Sydney’s parallel pipe dream).
Thinking about all this history led me back to the Great Circle Mapper, where I reconstructed Jim’s images of the Great Eastport Advantage — this time including Port Hawkesbury. As I expected, the Nova Scotia port has as much of an advantage over Eastport as Eastport has over Boston.
Here is the map showing distances to Casablanca:
And here is Dakar.
The Canso Superport wins all three.
Whether this makes it any more likely than Eastport to foster lasting economic growth, and what other factors might affect the two communities’ prospects, is a much tougher question, and a topic for another day. We may get some hint, however, from an apocryphal Presbyterian prayer one hears quoted from time to time in Cape Breton:
And more especially do we thank Thee, O Lord, for the Gut of Canso, Thine own body of water, which separates us from the wickedness that lieth on the other side thereof.
* [Clarification] In response to a question from Robert G. McNeil, the units are nautical miles.
** [Correction] Thanks to Stanley Beaton for reminding me it wasn’t the heavy water plant at Port Hawkesbury that proved a disaster. It was AECL’s sister facility at Glace Bay.
Pitch Interactive, a data visualization shop in Berkeley, California, has produced an interactive infographic illustrating the results of US drone attacks in Pakistan. I can’t embed it, but clicking on the link will take you to a 90-seconds chronological overview.
Clicking on the ATTACKS, VICTIMS, NEWS, and INFO links in the upper left corner of the infographic adds background information and sources.
Less than 2% of the victims are high-profile targets.
The rest are civilians, children and alleged combatants.
This is the story of every known drone strike and victim in Pakistan.
Since 2004, the US has been practicing in a new kind of clandestine military operation. The justification for using drones to take out enemy targets is appealing because it removes the risk of losing American military, it’s much cheaper than deploying soldiers, it’s politically much easier to maneuver (i.e. flying a drone within Pakistan vs. sending troops) and it keeps the world in the dark about what is actually happening. It takes the conflict out of sight, out of mind. The success rate is extremely low and the cost on civilian lives and the general well-being of the population is very high. This project helps to bring light on the topic of drones. Not to speak for or against, but to inform and to allow you to see for yourself whether you can support drone usage or not.
Perhaps you have seen this speech Kevin Spacey gave at the Edinburgh Television Festival last month. It’s been making the rounds on tech and entertainment sites, and has more than a million views. But if not, please take four minutes for the pithiest explanation I’ve heard of the disruption that has upended the television and motion picture industries. [Video link]
A few excerpts:
The success of the Netflix model—releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once—proves one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom….
Through this new form of distribution we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it….
If you watch a TV show on your iPad is it no longer a TV show? The device and length are irrelevant … For kids growing up now there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game Of Thrones on their computer. It’s all content. It’s all story….
The audience has spoken They want stories. They’re dying for them.
It’s not just drama. Major League Baseball figured out six years ago that people wanted access to their games on many more platforms than the traditional TV screen or radio receiver. They created MLB.com, which allows radio and TV broadcasts of every major league game from spring training to the World Series to be played on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, and fans were delighted to pay a reasonable fee for that flexibility.
If Spacey is right, and I think he is, then the Canadian companies that buy the rights to US content, and then insist that US websites carrying that content block Canadian viewers, will pay a big price for robbing viewers of control.
H/T: Leo Laporte and Christine Crawford
Our friend the curmudgeon has been quiet for a while, but the spectre of Detroit’s decayed grandeur propelled him to the keyboard:
Move along, Nova Scotians. There’s nothing for you to see in the grotesque collapse of the city of Detroit. Keep your focus on rural development.
Don’t worry about Halifax. It’s wealthy beyond imagination. There’s nothing wrong with its downtown that arresting a few panhandlers won’t fix. Avoid tall buildings; spread out instead. Never mind that only seven of 16 HRM electoral districts are genuinely urban. You can count on the other nine councillors to keep the urban centre healthy and attractive to outsiders from around the world.
It’s far better to resist the global migration to cities, with their greater opportunity and environmental sustainability. Every effort should be made to help country folk maintain their invaluable lifestyles. God forbid their children should leave home to seek their fortunes, knowing they’ll be welcomed back only if they can be judged as failures.
For the genteel squire, let not the scourge of renewable energy destroy their sight-lines, and nay, let not the gypsum for their summer houses come from local mines. Let them fertilize their hobby fields of elephant garlic with wholesome raw animal feces. May they stand firm against the loathsome tide of treated excrement from city dwellers.
Oh, and beware come-from-aways trying to turn derelict buildings into businesses. They know nothing about local ways.
Address your comments to comment[at]contrarian.ca.
The number of “significant” natural catastrophes in North America causing more than $1 billion in losses of more than 50 deaths, 1950-2012:
Number of natural catastrophes in North America, 1980-2011:
For the climate change skeptics in the audience, these charts come not the Ecology Action Centre, the Natural Resources Defence Council, or the Pembina Institute, but from Munich Re, a $265-billion company that is one of the world’s leading reinsurance brokers. (A reinsurer is an outfit that re-sells insurance liabilities when the risk becomes too great for a single retail firm, so it is on the front lines when catastrophic events loom.)
Bear in mind, this is what has already happened, when the sea level rise and ocean warming forecast by climate scientists has barely begun.
Both charts originated in Severe weather in North America: Perils · Risks · Insurance, a 260-page report Munich Re produced on the rise in major natural events. Perhaps because our coastlines are so built up, the rise is occurring faster in North American than in other parts of the world. The top chart is reproduced in a 44-page report of a forum hosted by the Washington DC-baseed Urban Land Institute: Risk & Resilience in Coastal Regions: A ULI Global Policy and Practice Forum Report [PDF]. The bottom chart appears in a 12-page executive summary [PDF] Munich Re’s report, the full version of which is available from the company for $100.
Take a walk along the shoreline of any city in Atlantic Canada. The Gabarus Sea Wall ain’t the only thing we need to be worried about.
H/T: Richard Stephenson
Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the “city” where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate.
Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie’s Pond and Parker’s Beach—as long as it sees real people using them.
This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The other looks at what you and those around you are actually doing, and continually updates and adjusts to this new information.
(Photos: Above: Black Island (in Gaelic, Island Dhu), Kempt Head, in the real world. Below: Black Island, Kempt Head, on Google Maps.)
Marla Cranston points out the Purcell’s Cove dies not exist in Facebook World.
If Calvert, NL, native Jenn Power were so inclined, she could list Ferryland as her home town, but this would be like asking her to accept Big 8 in place of Diet Coke. Far worse, actually.
Newly minted Margaree Centre resident Stephen Mills cannot list that village as his current residence, but Facebook World does allow “Margaree,” a community that, as Mills points out, does not actually exist.
There is no plain “Margaree” —— just the directional or topographic variations: North East Margaree, Margaree Valley, etc.
Interestingly, Mills contends that
[A]ll the Margarees were a bureucratic decision at some point. Names like Frizzelton and Fordview described the locations at one point.