Canadian High

Driving north up the Atlantic coast, the sunscreened crowds fade away as you pass through Bangor, ME, entering the no man’s land of narrow highway heading towards the Canadian border at Calais/St. Stephen.  There’s nothing to stop for, other than some grand, flat vistas of endless balsam fir forests, and once you’re over the border into New Brunswick the landscape is even emptier, rolling plateaus heading out unhindered to the deep, restless tides of the Bay of Fundy.

Whizzing on over the land bridge to Nova Scotia, the din of American politics, entertainment and consumerism gradually fades away, and now, having been almost a week here under the hypnotic spell of the rhythmic tides, rolling waves and balsam-scented breezes, my mind feels cleansed and curiously blank, reluctant to be drawn in again to any particular focus.

This morning dawned foggy, and now the sun is burning through, setting sparkles glittering on the gray, barely visible sea.  The twisted firs stand sentinel on the edge of the cliff, and a small group of sea ducks bob peacefully around the rocks, diving now and then to grab a tasty morsel.

Such has been the scene for millennia, minus the alien intrusion of this house and my people here on these shores.

I felt sad and disturbed to read in the Halifax Chronicle Herald that the natives of this region, mostly Mi’kmaq, are struggling to provide decent housing for their people.  It doesn’t seem right that the placid, prosperous Euro-Canadians, who have benefited so mightily from the ownership of this land, are not at minimum giving back to the native peoples in the form of decent housing.

Of course it’s the same in the U.S., where the only way the tribes are able to become self-sufficient is by setting up casinos to collect tariffs from the colonizers.

Somehow I expect more of the Canadians, but they too are only human. They are clear-cutting their forests, strip-mining for coal, oil and minerals, and they’ve already decimated the marine life in their waters through over-fishing.

The saving grace of Canada so far has been its low human population density, as compared to so many other parts of the world. With its vast land mass, Canada only has an average of about 3 people per square kilometer—higher here on the Atlantic coast, and lower in most of the interior.

Perhaps that’s why it’s easier to imagine a scenario here where the humans and non-humans live in harmony, as the Mi’kmaq ancestors did just a few generations back.

We must face the fact that it’s human over-population that is driving our current environmental crises, worldwide.

If we don’t scale back population growth ourselves, the planet will do it for us, self-correcting the imbalance with a few violent shakes: climate disruptions, epidemics, famine.

Here in Nova Scotia I am able to get a taste of what it feels like to live in a more balanced, uncluttered environment.

It feels like the way things should be.

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