Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Power of the Whale

The Bay of Fundy's Quoddy Region is one of the most productive and unique places along the entire north Atlantic coast. It was the original "sustainable" community; a place where the residents controlled and managed their health care, education, fisheries, and businesses. We grew much of our own food, milked our own cows, built ships that sailed the world, prepared high quality fish and food products in family-owned facilities scattered throughout our communities, and delivered our products up and down the coast and across the seas. It was indeed a bustling and productive place; the original "Atlantica" in fact.

Somehow we gradually lost our power. We let it slip slowly away and today we are paying a huge price.

In New Brunswick, the so-called program of "equal opportunity" moved control of our finances to Fredericton. Unemployment insurance was created and gradually stole self-esteem and motivation resulting in a burgeoning culture of dependency. Our fishermen were conned into bigger and bigger boats that required larger and larger catches to feed a bigger and bigger debt; a "catch 22" from which there is no escape and which ultimately destroyed much of our east coast fishery. Basic skills have been lost as the mandarins weave their plans for our future and pull us headlong into grand schemes like globalization while, at the same time, allowing the destruction of the very cultural and environmental foundations that have supported the residents of Quoddy for over 10,000 years.

But, the world economy is now shaken to its roots and the impact is being felt right here in the Bay of Fundy. In the Quoddy Area, layoffs have occurred on both sides of the border and it seems likely that plant closures may follow. It is little wonder that some residents are desperately looking for another "saviour", someone from afar who will come, set up some fabulous business, and save us one more time. These are the folks who have actively backed the three LNG terminal proposals in Passamaquoddy Bay. But now things are not going well for the proponents.

Quoddy Bay LNG recently had their application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cancelled, Downeast LNG has been issued a warning that could result in the withdrawal of their application (story), and Calais LNG is coming under increased pressure from Save Passamaquoddy Bay USA and other opponents. Supporters of these initiatives and other projects like the Bayside Quarry, bemoan the fact that the majority of folks on the Canadian side of this issue have been fighting these developments. They argue that we need the jobs ... apparently at any cost.

As strange as it may seem, these crazy carpetbaggers may have done us a great service. It has brought us all together in the realization of the real value of the Quoddy Region. Granted we are a dysfunctional family. In the process of trying to protect the place we all love, we are less than charitable with each other, we play petty power games, and feed dangerous rumours into the community. But, in spite of this there are many Quoddy residents who are moving forward and redeveloping a new sustainable economy and community. We are the stewards and owners of the resources and have the power of earth, air, and water. We need only to continue to seize control and rebuild our community on the natural gifts we have been given.

What's this got to do with whales? Well, we are a mirror of the North Atlantic Right Whale I think. We are a dying breed too and if we let the right whale pass into extinction, we will follow. It is indeed the symbol of our last hope.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:54 PM

    Hello Art:

    Just read your 'letter' about being like the Whale. Only wish we were as intelligent.

    Perhaps the greatest 'resource' may be our own People?

    We may have to return to the values, customs, and beliefs of our cultures?

    Our Leaders of Old: responsible for all their people, intelligent, kind, eloquent, fair, and 'wealth' was based on how much could be provided to the Tribe. The People had consensus decision-making and one could go 'against' the decision but not 'fight' the outcome. Generosity, caring, taking only what one needs, care for the old, sick, and disabled. No one hoarded wealth: it was good health, children, family, food and close ties.

    Our People cooperated with each other in every phase of life. Our language 'contains' our Principles, how we treat each other, and take care of our environment. I still remember this sort of community to a great extent from my childhood . I'm 74.

    I swear, even to this day, what sustains us is humor and extended family. When LNG came it split families and now we have mended some relationships. That was a very difficult phase we went through!

    When a child builds a house with wooden blocks, after a while he will 'destroy' it and build another more to his liking and stronger? This is just what is needed now and as capitalism crumbles (without anyone doing anything) it is the perfect time to:

    Build & envision a new society, one that is rational and based on good clear thinking and not on feelings. Healthy way of relating, cooperating and saving the planet and each other.

    Haven't responded to letters in this fashion and hope it is OK.

    Keep up the good difficult work. With Appreciation, MB