Dear Atlantic Canada
Does every generation believe the challenges they face are unique to them?
For a long while, it was easy for me to believe the challenges for me & my peers were distinctively “Millenials.”
In the context of today, it was easy to believe the emptying out of rural areas was new, youth moving away to get work was new, Bank crashes were new, commuting by bike was new, economic scarsity was new, the relevance of farmer’s markets & food security was new. This newness was part of the Atlantic Canadian narrative for my generation.
But it doesn’t take much research or observation to realize: Our troubles aren’t wholly new.
When I look at Atlantic Canada in The Great Depression, or learn about Rural Economic Historyhere- I realize our youth have often gone away to work, our rural areas & industry are often controlled by bodies outside of our communities, farmers markets have traditionally been at the centre, bikes have always been badass, and -as a region– we never fully recovered since the collapse of major resource industries & The Great Depression.
A friend’s father once said to me, working in theatre in Toronto and getting a million dollar budget they would always execute the budget perfectly, but if you give them chewing gum & a rubber band they have no idea what to do with it or where to start. On the East, it’s the opposite: Give us a million dollars, we’ll mess it up. It’s not on our scale. But, give us chewing gum & a rubber band and we’ll mobilize everyone and run a great show.
I believe because we didn’t benefit as other places in Canada did from ‘unstoppable’ economic growth & industrialization –we are now better prepared to step forward in our post-recession era: We have the cultural memory to use what we have to get what we have not. But do we know we are Masters of our own destiny?
I often call the era we’re in The New Renaissance. In many ways if feels like the economic realities I face are much more similar to those of my Grandparent’s generation, and recognize how important it is to step forward with generational knowledge and looking back in order to best step forward. Except that we are armed with whole new opportunities with information technology, green technology & an impossible-to-ignore interconnected world.
The new Back-to-The-Land movement is not made up of Luddites: With the challenges of today, we cannot live entirely in the past, work in silos, nor ignore the huge shared challenges of our futures. And we need to work on rural resilience so that we have great places to come home to, and also to be an exemplar of what can be.
It’s time we evaluated our Atlantic Canadian past & how we tell our own stories.
I’m excited to attend the Georgetown Conference: A conference and conversation hosted in PEI about redefining Rural Atlantic Canada.
When I came home from tour, I found out I was Georgetown’s poster child
“ It has never been more important for our rural communities to build optimism and common resolve – and to share success stories. At a time when the top-line preoccupations are with changing demographics and government austerity, it is critical to remind ourselves and the world that rural Atlantic Canada is a special place with significant advantages.”
Sound familiar? In “Knowledge for the People” in 1921, Jimmy Tompkins (one of the father’s of The Antigonish Movement) wrote:
I really believe in Rural Atlantic Canada. On building on our assets, our identity and our dreams: Not pretending we’re somewhere else. I believe in inviting the knowledge of the people into the room, and that because of our immense social capital & size, we are actually ahead of the game for stepping forward to face the world’s biggest challenges. To me, Rural Atlantic Canada is the places most ripe with opportunity. We just need to share our hopes & dreams.
This is why I’m moving to Sackville New Brunswick, to work with Renaissance Sackville & Community Forests International: It’s time to live a shared dream and realize it.
I am going Back to the Woods.