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  • In Defence of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia by Mark R. Leeming
  • Laurel Sefton MacDowell
Mark R. Leeming, In Defence of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press 2017)

Mark leeming's book is about environmental activism in Nova Scotia in the 1960s to 1980s period, and focuses on the issues of nuclear power, chemical forestry, and uranium mining. The emerging environmental movement in the region was influenced by contemporary ideas such as the "limits to growth" and sought to raise issues concerning the relationship of people to nature, which implied changing the political culture. As politicians were not "consultative," the struggle for change by the 1980s resulted in different tactics and priorities by participants within the growing environmental movement; some focused on government and small gains and others retained their belief in substantive change in Nova Scotia society in harmony with the environment.

Diverse groups of people working at different jobs increasingly reacted against new industrialized projects politicians tried to attract to their communities. The companies had no notion of [End Page 272] environmental standards and the government was not interested in enforcing any, so activist groups emerged to protect their communities and older industries like the fisheries.

The first chapter begins with the opposition of people in Lunenburg County to the damming of Gold River for hydroelectric power. The context is growing environmental awareness resulting from 1960s activism, increasing environmental degradation partly revealed by Rachel Carson's classic book Silent Spring (1962), the growth of an anti-capitalist counterculture, and the past destructiveness of small and large dams to water quality in Nova Scotia. As a result, local people supported by sports fishers successfully opposed the Gold River project which would have destroyed the salmon fishing industry. Elsewhere in the province, opposition to other projects that would adversely affect water and air quality involved women, youth, Mi'kmaq, and workers, who through various organizations articulated their concerns through the media. They were faced with recalcitrant politicians who practiced central economic development and sought to preserve government policy prerogatives. As such intransigence stimulated local environmental activism in the 1970s, the government's response was to try to control environmental issues by defining "pollution" narrowly and co-opting some environmentalists.

Chapter 2 concerns the emergence of anti-nuclear environmentalists in Nova Scotia who opposed the provincial government's plan to permit an American company to build a large nuclear power plant on the south shore to generate electricity for the United States. In the 1970s activists succeeded in preventing this nuclear installation on Stoddard Island and were in contact with other anti-nuclear activists and organizations in Canada. Gradually some activists, often urban and economically more conservative, focused on research and interaction with government authorities while other usually local people remained social activists imbued with the limits of growth ideas of that era, concern about the Three Mile Island disaster, and interest in renewable energy.

What is very clear is that the politicians in Nova Scotia (and the Maritimes) were accustomed to making decisions without public consultation between elections. They were unwilling to change and instead set up policy groups to divert the activists. In Nova Scotia the environmentalists did not influence policy as greatly as in Ontario where the government adjusted to a more consultative approach, particularly with preservationists concerned about the provincial parks system.

Nova Scotia environmentalists discussed in Chapter 3 effectively used political pressure tactics to raise their concerns about the issue of aerial spraying forests to try to reduce spruce bud-worm. Although foresters themselves were divided, the government allied with the industry, which wanted to spray. A broad coalition opposed spraying in a contest where Elizabeth May, now leader of the Green Party and a member of Parliament, emerged publicly as a key environmental leader. As the number and range of sprays increased, the issue went to court resulting in an unsuccessful herbicide trial in 1983. The government with the support of large companies like Dow Chemical won the case against the environmentalists. The case bankrupted and divided them. Public support continued but industry portrayed environmentalism as anti-business and its alliance with government...


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pp. 272-274
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