Pot Luck March 2014

Don’t spread that pig virus!
    Some cold, you. And white, too, here on the shore where my snow shovel never left the garage for two years running. Not so this winter. The skis came out too, briefly. While no one likes having to travel in this weather we have had two or three storms that left the world outstandingly beautiful. But oh how the furnace is gobbling wood!
    Please welcome two new members to our publishing team. In order of their arrival, Fred Holborn to advertising, and Matt Thorbourne to the dual task of managing both sales and marketing. Spirits are lifted on the advertising side of the office with the addition of new troops and it is infectious. We’re all smiling more. 

    They are not smiling in Prince Edward Island where this Valentine’s Day may be remembered as the day news broke of the first suspected case of PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) in the Atlantic provinces. The virus, thought to have come from China, is no threat to humans but young piglets appear to have little to no defense. The disease was first identified in the U.S. in May of 2013. It arrived in Ontario eight months and millions of dead piglets later, then Manitoba and now, it’s feared, in P.E.I. 
    Kind of takes the edge off celebrating lower corn prices. Bloomberg, Feb. 6, reported, “Farmers that were expected to increase hog output because of lower feed costs instead will see the virus ‘constrain supply’ for most of 2014.” Read on. As farmers pull in their horns money changers break out the champagne at news the anticipated constrained supply is, “sending Chicago hog futures surging as much as 16 percent this year to $1.10 a pound, the highest since April 2011.”
    There is a warning about PED on page 29 of this issue. Please, if you have even the slightest association with pigs, check out and heed the information provided by Nova Scotia’s Perennia extension service. 

    Prince Edward Island also has figured in the news as arguments erupt between farmers as well as between farmers and land owners over drilling deep wells for fresh water to irrigate crops; potatoes for the most part. There has been a decade-long moratorium on new wells but after a couple of dry seasons (nothing like California but enough to cut production), the Island’s Potato Board wants the moratorium lifted – or to hear the reason why. On the other hand, the National Farmers Union is against drilling, arguing that more should be done to conserve water (by increasing soil organic matter and striving for a balance of crops and livestock) before going faster, deeper, stronger into precious aquifers. The  NFU’s position sounds reasonable. Same idea with energy ­– do a better job conserving energy before despoiling more of the earth, below and above ground.
    The favorable response to Jack MacAndrew’s frack attack in the last issue tells me that if our readers ruled the world fracking would not be allowed. An op-ed piece in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald the other day had geoscientist Richard Gagné defending fracking. He said it is not true, as some critics suggest, that hundreds of chemicals are pumped deep underground to release shale gas. Only three to six, “many we use daily in our homes.” 
    Name them, please. 
    Not that it matters a lot. I can’t find a chemical under my kitchen sink I’d want pumped beneath my feet be it a quarter, half, or 10 miles down.
    Meanwhile, Canada Post plumbs the greatest depths apparently in an effort to drive all communication to the Internet – with the exception of fliers. I’m wondering how far the corporation can retreat from its responsibility to deliver mail to everyone everywhere in the country in a timely manner before we realize it’s not wearing a shred of clothes – and pull the plug.
    It is time to start over with men and women dedicated to connecting people by mail rather than meeting the greedy demands of shareholders. It is properly the job of government to support the delivery of first class and subscriber mail, providing society an essential physical, cultural glue. It is doubtful more than a handful of postal workers from the bottom to the top see their job that way.
    Print media faces a two-pronged attack. One prong that everyone recognizes is the growing popularity of the Internet. The other not so obvious is the ever-increasing cost of postage. First-class domestic letter postage is headed for a dollar – and I remember the penny post card. Yeesch! Canada Post announces a 50-percent increase in the cost of sending a letter, declares millions of individual mail boxes dangerous, re-routes mail to serve mechanized systems defying good sense and at the expense of rural jobs. 
    What’s in store for magazines? Whatever, we aren’t quitting – and neither are thousands of faithful subscribers. What a steadfast crew. 

    Why am I so darned negative? Because over the 40-odd years I have lived on this peninsula we have lost a postal outlet, mail delivery six days a week, fish in the harbor, sheep on the headlands, a church, a school, a store. These last three can be reached by car and more of us have them than before – computerized so our best local shade-tree mechanics are hamstrung. And gas has gone from 50 cents an imperial gallon to $1.40 a liter. This is not progress – except for the petroleum industry fracking shale gas and using huge shovels and steam (in-situ thermal recovery) to extract bitumen from the surface and deep underground.
    The much-ballyhooed Ivany Commission report on the Nova Scotia economy, the Rick Williams Land Review Committee report in 2010, and Brian Smith’s 2008 report on agriculture extension services in Nova Scotia are among many important studies intended to provide backstops for significant change for the better, or so we are led to believe. In reality they are crumbs tossed by politicians in power to quiet the masses.
    Former NDP Finance Minister Graham Steele is the one critical voice on Ivany and company. He told CBC that the report, “will be a Rorschach test for Nova Scotians. Because it is so broad – and so vague – you will be able to see in it whatever you choose.” I would choose to see specifics, the “hows” to bring more immigrants to Nova Scotia (and keep them here), to increase tourism and agriculture, and so on. I don’t. 
    Neither does Steele (who, by the way, left the NDP cabinet a half year before the Ivany Commission was announced), “The Ivany Commission walks up to the hard questions – and stops.” 
    And time for me to stop, and go plant something in the greenhouse. DvL

And the December winner is. . .
    Congratulations to reader survey participant Gwen Sweet of Avonport, N.S., the winner of the December draw for a copy of "Getting Rid of Alders," stories from Rural Delivery's first 25 years. Our thanks to Gwen and to all who took the time to fill out the survey. (See page 40 of this issue.)