Email from a reader, December 2022

I got Molly’s permission to post this email. It made my day.

From: Molly Young
Subject: Cardinal Divide

Hello –
I just want to tell you how much I loved Cardinal Divide. Such a beautiful story and so well written, not over the top, simple style and dialogue.

The characters who worked at Dreamcatcher and the different aspects of the story were all interesting and important. I didn’t feel in a rush to get back to one storyline.

I picked up this book off a coffee table in my best friends parents house in Petite Riviere back in 2020. I read a chapter and left it and never stopped thinking about it. I finally got to read it all this Fall. So beautiful.

I’m not a writer myself so I struggle to find the words to describe it but, I truly enjoyed the story, the twists, the fact that both Meg and Ben’s stories were equally important…

I love reading about where I live (from NS, Kentville) but currently living in Northern Alberta.

I could go on but,
I just really loved it.

Thank you.

Last Hope Camp, December 2021 – June 2022

Starting in December 2021, I spent a little over 6 months camped out by the side of a logging road in Annapolis County with an assortment of other forest protectors. It turned out to be an epic winter, snow wise. We spelled each other as best we could. It played havoc with my writing schedule but I don’t regret a minute of it.  On the summer solstice we were finally able to declare a win and go home, thanks to some endangered lichens.

I was asked to write this article for the Blomidon Naturalists Society’s Newsletter in August 2022

What was the Last Hope camp, what did we achieve, and what now?

In November 2021, flagging went up around an 80 year old forest by Beal’s Brook off Highway 10 in southwest Nova Scotia. Local residents knew what that flagging meant. 20 years earlier, Randy Neily, a hunter, trapper and farmer, had persuaded Bowater Mersey, the pulp mill that owned the land at the time, not to cut this forest because of its value to wildlife. Nova Scotians bought back the land when the mill went bankrupt. But now, obviously, the government had given WestFor the go ahead to cut the forest. (WestFor is a consortium of mills that currently holds the main license to cut on ‘crown’ land in western Nova Scotia.)

Residents protested that the forest provides crucial habitat and connectivity for wildlife. In a sea of clearcuts it bridges between three large wetlands. Three endangered species were known to be in the area: Wood turtle, Mainland moose and American martin. The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables was quick to point out that the American marten was only officially at risk in Cape Breton. (It is about to be listed as at risk for the whole of Nova Scotia.) Besides, they said, not to worry, their biologists had reviewed the site twice and there were no Species at Risk concerns. And anyway, it was too late, the harvest had been approved. Residents should talk to WestFor.

WestFor told Randy Neily the cut would begin in a week or two.

It didn’t. Why? Because on December 2, 2021, Forest Protectors and members of Extinction Rebellion set up camp on the logging road.

For me and I think for all the people who camped there — 46 of us over six plus months —  it was time to say enough. Enough damage. Enough disregard for the needs of wildlife. Enough promises.

Letters and petitions, a forest funeral, meetings with our MLA, voting, none of these has made much difference. The NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives have all had a shot at forestry reform in the last decade but the Department of Natural Resources (by assorted names) has gone on doing the bidding of industrial forestry. We are running out of forests, mature natural forests that support complex ecosystems and store a lot of carbon. In 1958 twenty-five percent of all the forests in Nova Scotia were over 80 years old. Now that figure is between one and 5%.

As Alexandra Morton, whale biologist turned salmon protector, puts it: “If you can be peaceful and honourable about it, just physically putting your body in the way of what is damaging life on Earth is a very, very powerful thing.” The camping was rugged with temperatures of -26 degrees centigrade and frequent snowstorms but the mood in camp was joyful. We did not know how things would turn out – the ability to accept uncertainty is a prerequisite for this kind of action – but we knew it was better than sitting at home  wringing our hands.


Our camp was set up on the exact site of the historic Last Hope hunting camp, so called because, back in the 1920s, when game was already becoming scarce, the habitat in this area was so favourable for moose that hunters who had failed to bag their winter’s supply of meat came here for one last try. Though desperately far from numerous now, a young bull moose was photographed in Beal’s Meadow in September 2020. Dan Baker, a local man who has roamed this area for 50 years gave us a map showing the locations of all the moose scat and tracks he’d seen over the years. DNRR was not interested.

As soon as we set up camp we put the word out for someone who knew lichens to come and take a look. In January a lichen enthusiast came and found three lichens listed as Species at Risk (SAR): Frosted glass whiskers; Wrinkled shingle and Black foam lichen, with 5 specimens altogether. Each required a 100m buffer. DNRR put the proposed harvest on hold until the lichenologist they hired could survey the whole cut block. He came out in February, confirmed the finds and added two more occurrences. In March the Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables said that was good enough, added buffers for the 7 lichens and allowed the harvest to go ahead.

It didn’t because we stayed put. In April, when two and a half feet of snow had finally melted, we organized our first Lichen Identification session with lichenologist and author Frances Anderson. Participants found two more occurrences of Species at Risk lichens. Over the next two months, with another Lichen ID session to train more people, campers and friends identified a total of 10 more SAR lichens. All were reported to DNRR and to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center.

We also organised other workshops on bird and tree identification as well as doing bioblitzes of the area. Four Species at Risk birds were recorded in and next to the cut block: the Canada Warbler; Olive-sided flycatcher; Eastern wood peewee and Chimney swift. On April 23rd, an American marten was seen crossing one of the two bridges close to camp. All were reported to DNRR.

The Minister’s response? He told local MLA Carman Kerr that the decision about whether to cut the forest or not was in WestFor’s hands.

We asked a brilliant mapper friend to make us a map showing the 100m buffers for all 17 SAR lichen occurrences then we put out a press release. On June 21, 2022, after 202 days camped out on a logging road in Annapolis County, Last Hope camp declared a win. None of the proposed cut block has been logged. Thanks to the identification of Species at Risk lichens on the site by campers and others, 60% of it is off limits to any cutting. The remaining 40% is harder to access and uneconomical to harvest. This is the interview I gave in the forest at Last Hope the day we packed up and went home. CBC Information Morning: Why are Protestors packing up after 203 days of camping?

DNRR has officially acknowledged that only 10 hectares of the original 24 hectare cut block is available for cutting. Still, as far as they are concerned, the harvest can proceed. It is, in bureaucrat-speak, ‘at the licensee’s scheduling discretion.’ The planned cut seems to have changed from the original ‘Uniform Shelterwood’ to a ‘High Retention Gap Irregular Shelterwood with the goal of creating and restoring multi aged forest conditions in this white pine/red oak dominated forest through targeted retention of these species.’

The original prescription was touted as a fine example of ecological forestry. This new version must be extra ecological. After all, doesn’t it sound as if they would be doing the forest a favour by cutting it?

To be clear, forests do not need forestry. What this forest needs is to be left alone. We will do our best to make sure it is. We do, after all, know the way. We can be back at the drop of a hat – or the clank of a machine. There are lots of eyes on the ground.

Was it worth it? What a lot to go through to protect such a small area.

In addition to finding such a concentration of rare lichens and protecting them and the forest they depend on, Last Hope

  • Clarified a fundamental issue with the way the government is implementing the recommendations of the Lahey report. They claim to be ushering in a new era of ecological forestry on ‘crown’ lands but they have not done the landscape level planning recommended by Lahey to identify what areas should be off limits to any harvesting. Reducing the use of clearcutting is good. Applying an ‘ecological’ forestry prescription to a forest that shouldn’t be cut at all is not progress.
  • Revealed in technicolour quite how badly the government is failing to do its job. It says it protects endangered species. It says we should leave forestry decisions to DNRR. It says we can count on it to address the climate and nature crisis. But we can’t.
  • Built relationships between groups that can be far more effective working together: Indigenous people; local hunters and trappers; naturalists; political activists. In mid-January the District Chief of Kespukwitk, district one of the seven traditional districts of Mi’kma’ki, came to camp. She presented us with the flag of the seven districts to fly. The flag represents both an invitation to be on this unceded territory and thanks for our sacrifices in protecting the land and water and the creatures that live there.
  • Created hope. DNRR said it was too late to save this forest. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. We can make a difference. Together we must save what we can. There is real joy in coming together to protect what we love: this natural world. Our only home.

What now?

The government has pledged to protect 20% of Nova Scotia’s lands and waters by 2030. But they are continuing to approve cuts in the very forests we need to protect the most — mature, mixed species forests like Last Hope which offer critical habitat to Species At Risk.

It is time for people across the province to say no, we do not consent to the ongoing destruction of nature. We cannot afford to lose any more of our most ecologically valuable forests. This means placing under consideration for protection all forests over 80 years old on crown land as well as those few areas of intact forests not yet fragmented by logging roads and clearcuts. Final decisions as to what areas will receive permanent protection will take time but in the meantime this will result in an immediate halt to logging, road-building and development in those areas.

That, in a nutshell, is our Last Hope campaign.  In addition to petitioning for the demand outlined above, we are committed to working with individuals and groups to build the skills necessary to identify and protect ecologically valuable forests. Our small success shows that it is not too late to save what we can. If we want a livable planet, we can’t wait for the government to act.


CBC Information Morning: Why are Protestors packing up after 203 days of camping?

National Observer: Protestors pack up with a win

Chronicle Herald: Lichens save the day 

The Quaking Swamp Journal: Protestors declare partial victory


Praise from a hero…


In April 2021 I got this email about Cardinal Divide from Joan Baxter — and saved it of course.

For those who don’t know, Joan Baxter is the author of “The Mill: 50 Years of Pulp and Protest” (2017) as well as volumes of extraordinary in-depth reporting about (among many other things) forestry and gold-mining. She teases apart the layers of  excessive complexity these industries use to swaddle themselves from public oversight. Those of us trying to protect the natural world from the ravages of extraction capitalism would be lost without her.

Cardinal Divide made my whole weekend

Hi again, Nina …. I finished your wonderful novel, read through it obsessively this weekend, the first time I’ve done such a read in a long time. The characters are still with me, and I came to love them. I was also grateful for the ending. So much tragedy on those pages, but you turned it around into something positive and encouraging because of the characters and their kindness to each other, their wisdom, and – I hate using this word because it is so abused, but it fits – resilience.

It is a masterful piece of writing and storytelling. We are very fortunate that you chose to live here in Nova Scotia, not just because of your efforts to save (what is left of) our forests from the forestry cabal, but also because of your literary talents.

Looking forward to the memoir!

Best wishes,


Moose Country Blockade and after



Happy Holidays to all! I wish we had better news for the forests and the mainland moose but so far our government has remained completely unresponsive to unprecedented pressure from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia; citizens deluging the minister of Lands and Forestry with letters, emails, phone calls; 31,000 signatures on Nature Nova Scotia’s petition; Forest protectors camped out for eight full weeks on logging roads; supporters occupying the Halifax office of the Department of Lands and Forestry. Two people were arrested there. In Digby County nine of us chose to get arrested rather than lift our blockade voluntarily. This was not a step any of us took lightly. But there are times civil disobedience is necessary. This is one of those times.


Our government has done a good job with COVID, and for that we are grateful. But COVID should not be used as an excuse to avoid democratic scrutiny. Every other province managed to hold virtual legislative sessions, but not ours. COVID is not the only emergency we are facing. UN scientists are clear that biodiversity loss is at a critical juncture. So is the need to address climate change. Watching our government license the destruction of mainland moose habitat on public land is maddening. These animals are facing extinction. And the habitat that is being destroyed is the habitat we all need to protect and restore, not just for the moose but for ourselves. While the government stalls on forestry reform and refuses to respond to our protests, the forestry industry is engaged in a clearcutting frenzy.

Once forests are flattened it takes 50 to 100 years get back to the same level of carbon storage and far, far longer to restore the complex ecosystem of a healthy forest. If that is even possible, as storms and drought and fires bear down on our lands with ever increasing intensity.

Never have Extinction Rebellion’s simple demands seemed more to the point. Tell the Truth about the crises we face. Act Now. Involve Citizens. In the coming year we will all have to step up and require that our government change course. Already an unprecedented coalition of groups has come together, pushing for a moratorium on clearcutting on on Crown lands until Lahey’s recommendations are fully implemented. The people who were arrested are as committed as ever to protecting the moose and the forests. While some of us may be in court rooms rather than on the logging roads, we will still be shining a light on our government’s all too cosy relationship with industrial forestry.

Giving up is not an option so we are going to have to get creative. Consider Jacob Fillmore. He came and camped with us for two weeks, maintaining the Rocky Point Lake blockade. Now he is camped out on Grande Parade. His demand? Stop Ecocide. Please support him. Even better, please follow his example. Come up with your own ways to act. Better yet, work together. Not everyone can camp out in the woods or risk arrests but we can all do something.


One thing I know from those weeks on the logging roads. It feels far, far better to act than to sit at home wringing my hands.

A big thank you to everyone who offered support in so many ways. Your donations helped keep the show on the road. Now we need your help again, for legal costs this time. We will be keeping these funds separate from those we raised earlier. Below is our fundraising request. Please feel free to cut and paste and share it with friends and sympathisers.

Here’s hoping for progress in 2021.




On December 11th, Forest Protectors safeguarding mainland moose habitat in Digby County were served an injunction. This injunction bars the Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia Association and John and Jane Doe from blocking any logging roads anywhere WestFor has been licensed to harvest on crown land. It bars anyone however vaguely associated with the blockades from encouraging anyone who might encourage anyone to blockade these roads, or indeed ‘Any and all roads, trails and/or access points whatsoever to the Rocky Point Lake Sites, Napier Lake Sites and/or the Authorized Sites.” Since WestFor, a consortium of 13 mills, has been authorized by the province to manage the harvesting of all forests on crown land in South West Nova Scotia, this injunction represents an extraordinary assault on the rights of Nova Scotians. You would think forestry companies, not Nova Scotia taxpayers, had bought these lands from Bowater Mersey. WestFor will seek to extend this interim injunction on January 26th and 27th at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

On December 15th, RCMP arrested nine people who refused to remove the blockades protecting mainland moose habitat from government authorized clearcutting. These nine were charged with criminal contempt of court and will be tried in Digby Provincial Court on March 15th. Meanwhile, on May 29th, 2020, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled that “the Minister (of Lands and Forestry) has exhibited a chronic and systemic failure to implement action under the ESA (Endangered Species Act)”. Why is it that citizens will be tried for contempt of court and not the Minister?

This wildly overreaching injunction will be challenged in court in January. In March all nine defendants will be before a judge in a trial that will shine a light on this province’s shameful failure to protect endangered species and the forests they need. Ecojustice, a national organisation, and Jamie Simpson of Juniper Law will be working together. Ecojustice is a charity, Jamie is not. Our goal is to raise $5000 to cover our legal costs. Any money left over will be donated to Ecojustice.

Moose Country Blockade, October-December 2020

Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmother Dorene Bernard asked me to write something about the blockade we had set up on a remote logging road in Southwest Nova Scotia.  Here is what I wrote:

In the middle of October I learned from a Digby man that a lot of clearcutting was about to begin on Crown land near New France in Digby County. He knew there were often moose in the area. Three years ago he photographed a cow moose and her calf in the area.

When we studied the area in the Province’s Harvest Plan Map Viewer we saw that in the past four years the Department of Lands and Forestry had approved plans to cut 3300 acres. 92% of those cuts were clearcuts (under fancy new names like Overstory Removal and Variable Retention 10%, 20%, 30% but still clearcuts).

Checking out the area we learned that some of those cuts already happened in the past 3 y


ears but 1650 acres had not yet been cut. We decided we should stop the cutting to protect what was left of the forests for the moose. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled on May 29th, 2020 that “the Minister (of Lands and Forestry) has exhibited a chronic and systemic failure to implement action under the ESA (Endangered Species Act)”. The Department of Lands and Forestry kept making promises to protect the moose, just as they have kept promising forestry reform, and all the while the forests were being mowed down.

Enough is enough, we decided, and set up a blockade on the logging road that gave access to the least disturbed part of the area of crown land west of the Tobeatic Wilderness. This was near Rocky Point Lake, just south of Fourth Lake. The logging road had already been massively enlarged and extended, flagging was up marking the areas to be cut, 500 acres in all. On the morning of October 21st I got a phone call saying crews were done cutting the Northern Pulp allocation on crown land in Cumberland and Colchester county. Now they were heading down to this area. That afternoon we set up our first blockade and we have maintained it ever since.

Many, many hunters have stopped by in the last 6 weeks to say they 100% support us and to talk about the moose tracks they have seen in the area. We let hunters through the blockades. It is the logging crews we are keeping out.

On November 22nd we set up a second blockade on crown land to the south of us, near Caribou River. Roads were being widened and built in preparation for more cutting. Before they even start cutting, these big roads damage the habitat for moose and put them under more pressure. So we decided to stop the road building. This we have succeeded in. Unfortunately a local company, CutRite, had already started clearcutting one of the areas approved for cutting. Our blockade prevents them from taking vehicles or equipment (including log transporters) in and out but we have not stopped the crews passing through the blockades on foot. So they carry fuel through the camp during shift changes. It is no fun for anyone.

Our dispute is not with the local guys who are trying to make a living, it is with the Department of Lands and Forestry. We expect that WestFor, the consortium of mills that holds the license for cutting on crown lands in South West Nova Scotia, will at some point get an injunction to make us move. Several of us are prepared to get arrested and will mount a ‘Necessity defense’ based on the government’s failure to live up to its responsibility to protect endangered species and their habitat.

On November 11th I sent a letter to the new minister of Lands and Forestry, Derek Mombourquette asking that he meet with me and two people knowledgeable about moose and their habitat needs. Wildlife Biologist Bob Bancroft has agreed to be one of those people. So far the Minister has not replied.

Last week several allies sat in the office of the Department of Lands and Forestry in Halifax requesting that the Minister agree to a meeting with us. After two hours sitting there, two of them were arrested, carried off and fined. They were also told that this was no way to get a meeting, they should follow the usual channels. That would be writing to ask for a meeting which we have done with no result.

The specific demand we are making is outlined in the letter I sent: ‘We are asking for an immediate halt to all logging activities on the Crown lands bounded by Fourth Lake Flowage to the north, the Tobeatic Wilderness Area to the east, the Napier river to the south and a combination of the Silver River Wilderness Area and private lands to the west. This suspension of logging approvals should be accompanied by an independent review by biologists to establish best management practices for the area with the primary goal of protecting mainland moose and establishing the core habitat necessary for their recovery.’

We intend to maintain our blockades through the winter or as long as necessary. Who are we? A loose group of Forest Protectors who live in South West Nova Scotia, ranging in age from 25 to 76. Most of us are over sixty, many are members of Extinction Rebellion, a movement of people who use non-violent direct action to stir governments into action to address the climate and biodiversity crises. Protecting and restoring forests is one of the best ways of addressing both of these emergencies at the same time.

We all acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw people. We are bound by treaties of peace and friendship and would value any opportunities to work with the original guardians of this land.

In Peace and Friendship,

Nina Newington


It’s been a while and I’ve been busy protecting forests in Nova Scotia — or trying to

I’m going to do some catching up here with a series of posts about the main Forest Protector actions I have been involved in here in Kespukwitk, District One of the seven traditional districts of Mi’kma’ki, otherwise known as  southwest Nova Scotia, since 2020.

Combining a longstanding writing practice with trying to save the humans (and the rest of nature) isn’t easy. But the UN’s IPCC report in 2018 woke me up. It said we had twelve years to act if we want a livable planet. Twelve years. Not decades. Okay, but what was going to get us moving? Us, collectively. Individuals being virtuous was not going to do it. Along came Extinction Rebellion, birthed in the UK by people feeling the same necessity for collective action. I first encountered them as a Facebook image of a group of people blocking a logging road in Southwest Nova Scotia. They were carrying a long green banner bearing the words, Extinction Rebellion. They were out there, getting in the way of a clearcut. My people. I felt a surge of relief.

When I searched Extinction Rebellion I discovered videos of  visually powerful, peaceful mass civil disobedience in London, England. They had taken over a bridge across the River Thames and turned it into a garden bridge with potted trees and house plants. They had anchored a pink boat in Oxford Circus and set up a dance stage. The boat was named after a murdered Central American environmental activist. Their demands of government were simple. Tell the Truth. Act Now. Citizen participation. The disruption they were causing was a mere shadow of what was coming our way if we didn’t start treating the climate crisis like the emergency it is.

Not long afterwards, a poster appeared in my local small town library. Someone was going to screen Extinction Rebellion’s Talk. Twenty-five people crowded into the meeting room to hear the bad news –  we were screwed if we didn’t start slashing emissions right away, in fact we were somewhat screwed even if we did — and the good news: people like us were waking up all around the world and if we were brave and bold we might make a difference. That was in February 2019.

We formed a local chapter and learned there was already a Nova Scotia wide group. We hired a bus and marched in Halifax. We got our very own pink boat, a canoe, this being Canada, and pretty soon we and our canoe were camped on a logging road to protect an old forest on a peninsula between two lakes.  After five days and a serious foot-in-mouth moment on live radio by the head of the sawmill consortium licensed to cut the forest, we won. The harvest was put on hold. That forest is still standing. It doesn’t have formal protection yet but we continue to monitor it.

We printed up flyers and dressed up in bee costumes for the Apple Blossom Festival and again for the Natal Day parade. We sailed the pink canoe on Clean Annapolis River Day. In September we joined 10,000 people on the streets of Halifax, marching for climate action, led by the School Students for Climate Strike and Fridays For Future.


In early March 2020 Extinction Rebellion, by then generally known as XR, pulled together a meeting of all the chapters in the province to hash out priorities for the year ahead and to build relationships with other groups. Three days later the World Health Organization declared COVID a global pandemic.

Collective actions ground to a halt. So did my money work. But my second novel, Cardinal Divide, was still on track to come out in September. Also the logging industry kept logging.  And they kept on spraying herbicides from helicopters to kill off the natural regeneration that followed their clearcuts. As it turned out, they planned to spray  in the county where I live, in September of course.  DON’T SPRAY US  we painted on tents and tarps. But I had outdoor book signing events lined up. There was no way I could go and camp on a clearcut to stop the spray.

That decision didn’t last long. Something in me had made a serious commitment to getting in the way of what damaged the Earth. But did it have to be either/or? It turned out to be fun, doing clearcut book signings, even if we were always listening out for a helicopter.  In the end the spray plans were cancelled for all the sites where people camped. Frogs and snakes that would have been killed on contact by the glyphosate-based spray got to live. Birds and bears and deer ate uncontaminated browse and berries. The Earth continued to heal herself from the brutal assault that is clearcutting.

My book showed no signs of becoming a bestseller but I felt proud of it and got lovely feedback from people who read it. I was looking forward to my winter writing time. But that wasn’t quite how it worked out.

About that Happening, and a Jingle

Another snippet from our North Mountain Happening, this time a short jingle and some dancing.

Music and lyrics by Allison Cornell, video Adam Zinzan. Filmed in Mount Hanley, Nova Scotia.

Who are these people and what was this Happening, you might ask? Here is the invitation I sent out to a motley assortment of friends and acquaintances, all of whom live on the North Mountain, a long wedge of volcanic rock that separates the Bay of Fundy from the Annapolis Valley here in Nova Scotia.

A North Mountain Happening

 August 30th, 2pm on; 31st as rain date.

In and around our garden

What’s the idea?

A cross-pollination between someone saying they might like to perform a dance in the garden here and me wondering how to promote my new novel in Covid times.

The official publication date for Cardinal Divide is September 1st. The novel has lots of queer content including a pre-non-binary non-binary 99 year old main character. Living queer in a rural area is important to the book too. So showcasing the community that is evolving on the North Mountain seems like a fun idea too.

I’d also like to embed an awareness that we are in Mi’kma’ki, on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw people.

The ‘happening’ part of all this is that it would not be about gathering an audience to watch performers but instead people doing their thing around the garden while Adam Zinzan videos. Some of the happenings might have to do with the book – two friends have offered an advertising jingle, someone might interview me about the book, maybe I’ll read a few pages – but lots of it might not. Dance performances. Possibly Alexa installing a sculpture she’s been working on. Maybe a molten metal and blacksmith muscles moment. Someone declaiming a poem. Other things I can’t even imagine.

The idea is to generate short video clips that can be sent out on social media. For my purposes, links to the book might happen through Eileen sneaking about with the book-as-mask, popping up in the clips. Not all of them, though. Because the idea too would be that people performing would have access to clips of themselves

This is an invitation to friends and friends of friends to dream up something performative you’d like to do here. It’s more about imagination and play than product.

If you want to know more about the book check out this interview:

If you’d like to be involved, let me know.


Sketchy but it worked and afterwards we feasted on slow-roasted shoulder of lamb and salad and bread and cheese made from our own sheep’s milk and it was the best book launch I could have imagined even though it didn’t occur to me that it could be that as well as all the other things it was from daft to solemn and back again.

With many thanks to Kate and Allison Cornell, Alexa Jaffurs, Lorne Julien, Eileen Rapsey, R.J. Rose, An Thorne, Angelika Waldow and Adam Zinzan.

Book signing on a clearcut or two

At the end of August, as Cardinal Divide was about to come out, a group of landowners on the North Mountain decided to fight the aerial spraying of some forest land. Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment had just issued a list of parcels of private land approved for spraying with a Glyphosate based herbicide. It included 250 acres owned by a corporation that had previously clearcut the forest to supply wood to the Northern Pulp mill. Now the corporation wanted to poison the hardwoods that were regrowing on the site — all the maple, birch, ash — leaving only the softwoods. That’s the function of these aerial spray programs, to stop the regrowth of the natural Acadian forest, instead creating an industrial monoculture ready for (climate change permitting) another clearcut in forty year’s time .

The government might have approved but the landowners did not. Many had lived in the area for over thirty years, tending their woodlots gently, sustainably. Several lived in houses built with timber cut from their own land. I knew two of them, Anna and Don. We had met at an ungodly hour one morning last October to car pool into Halifax. There we gathered in the cold dawn with other Extinction Rebellion activists to block the John MacDonald Bridge. Similar actions happened across Canada that day, part of a week of global rebellion. Some people hated that we disrupted traffic but it certainly got people talking and thinking about climate change.  And for Anna and Don and me, it forged a bond.

So it was natural for me to lend a hand as they planned their protest, not that they needed much help. ‘Who’s willing to camp out on that land?’ Don asked at their first organizing meeting. Six hands went up. ‘Who’s willing to get arrested?’ Six hands went up. A long white canopy left over from somebody’s kid’s wedding was painted with the words “Don’t Spray Us”. It and some tents were raised on that clearcut land on September 1st, the first day spraying could happen according to the permits. A neighbour with a drone took pictures. Media got interested. Within three days the corporation caved. Their spray application was withdrawn.

Meantime those of us living a little further down the Annapolis Valley found out there were two sites on the South Mountain scheduled for spraying. We were nervous about going up against the company that owned those lands, the biggest sawmill in Southwest Nova Scotia. Anna and Don came to our planning meeting, bringing encouragement and the Don’t Spray Us  canopy. This time we set up on two sites, one near Paradise Lake, the other Eel Weir Lake. It took four days  for the company to decide not to spray this year.

That left us just enough time to scramble a camp together for two more parcels in Hants County. They didn’t get sprayed either.

Spending time on a piece of land that is trying to recover from the assault of a clearcut, you feel the will to heal. The land is a mess. The moist mossy floor of the forest is gone.  The complex, invisible networks of fungi and roots in the soil have been disrupted. The soil, exposed now, is releasing the carbon it has been storing for decades. You know that but you see the stumps of maple and ash and oak sending up sprouts. You see birds and frogs, hear coyotes, know there’s a mama bear and two cubs in the woods nearby. And sometimes you think you hear the sound of a helicopter. You think about it, a chopper flying low over the clearcut, spraying poison on everything. How even if it’s true that Glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans, even if it doesn’t cause cancer in animals that eat the leaves and berries, even if it only does exactly what its proponents claim it does, it is going to kill all of the broad leafed plants in this clearcut. And because it has surfactants added to it to make it stick better to the leaves, it will kill any frog or salamander it comes in contact with. Why? Because the surfactants make it stick to their skin and amphibians breathe through their skin.

You sit in the clearcut and you think about these things and you feel a fierce joy that you are there, putting your body in the way. Saying no. Saying ‘Don’t Spray Us’ and meaning the true ‘us’, all of us. All living beings. You are not alone. I am not alone, out on the clearcut, saying ‘no’ for all of us.

So, in a strange way, I can’t imagine a better place to sign a copy of my book and put it in the hands of another person who has also travelled rough roads to stand with us.

All in all, this September, we occupied land in three counties in Nova Scotia. We stopped the spraying of 615 acres of the 3700 that were approved. It’s a beginning.