I moved to Amherst in 1965 to take up a position as a reporter-photographer with the Amherst Daily News, and have remained here all these years mostly due to the fact that I met my future wife here, married her in 1967, and stayed here for no really good reason, but then had nowhere in particular to go either.
One of the biggest mistakes of my life was my failure to get a proper education that would give me skills that would provide me with a good job opportunity. Eventually, that led to my employment with the Canadian Penitentiary Service, and the rest is history.
Every working day for 25 years, as I crossed the Tantramar Marsh en route to Dorchester, I saw the network of dikes built by the very industrious Acadian settlers to reclaim fertile and productive land from the tidal marshes of the Bay of Fundy, and I came to think very often about their labor and how they literally worked themselves to death to make homes here. It was a staggering concept to try to imagine just how much labor went into building all those dikes, and I marveled at the effectiveness of the basic engineering process.
Here we are in 2018, and the ancient engineering efforts of those hardy people are showing signs of failing, under pressure from rising waters as a result of global warming. Now it is staggering to think that politicians at all levels are fighting and fussing about committing funds to fix those dikes before they fail completely, and all of the marsh surrounding this community becomes water-frontage. Some things are just too important to neglect, and I think this is one of them. Federal and provincial governments must create methods of saving funds over a long term, well past the term of their elected status, to funds a marshlands conservation industry with a long-term committed labour force to work at this problem until it is solved.
I have also often wondered at the sheer lack of thought that allows people in many locations in the Maritimes to build their homes in flood-plain areas. I cannot remember a time when the annual spring thaws did not cause many hardships when homes and properties were flooded beyond habitable capacity, and yet, when it was all over and the damage restored, they stayed in that location to await the same thing all over the next year. That seemed to me to defy common sense.
It was even more lacking in good sense when people who had made concise decisions to build in a flood-plain area went crying to the government for assistance when their property was destroyed by flooding.
I always used to think the answer to that problem was to relocate those homes and buildings to Crown land areas that were located away from and above possible flood areas. Such a concept is perfectly possible, and I actually saw an example of that in 1958, when my dad took the family on a road trip across Canada, and we passed through the area of Upper Canada where the St. Lawrence Seaway was under construction, and whole towns were being relocated on Crown Land away from the flood area created by the building of the seaway. That process was a remarkable thing to see happening, as it was the largest engineering undertaking ever experienced in Canada, and really a great memory from my past.
The point is that government must undertake the difficult process of long-term planning and industrial-level action if communities and families are going to transition successfully through the global warming process.
In order to do this, governments have to think outside the three and four-year terms of their election to office, and they need to do it soon. Once the water is lapping at our doors, it will be too late to make the needed changes.
Maybe the planners for the future can consider changing the marsh-dike system so that the ocean can flood the marsh and create ocean-frontage for our community. It seems living right next to and practically on the water is what most people of the world desire, which I think is a feeling we all have harboured since our ancestors crawled out of the ocean and took up residence on land. Well, that’s a thought too deep to discuss here.
Jerry Randall is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.