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Saltscapes Blog

  1. Drumming fingers and cussin’ while waiting for downloads

    We have a friend, Ontario-based, who is prominent in the social media marketing field. She is a single person who loves to travel and explore—and her work is portable. She is often to be found in south American countries, for instance, for months on end. All she needs is a high-speed internet connection.

    The numbers of people like her are growing—mostly young people who increasingly place a high value on quality of life and disavow the city commute/office cubicle grind. Already, in Canada, about 20 per cent of freelance computer industry workers have relocated to rural communities for the less stressful/more agreeable lifestyle.

    On one hand, this obviously represents a glorious opportunity for an area like Atlantic Canada where rural communities have been emptying of young people for decades and local economies have been in precipitous decline—but a highly desirable quality of life remains. These are generally fairly well-compensated folks representing a diverse economic base as opposed to the one-horse town economies we have become accustomed to.

    But, there is a rather serious hitch—the availability of high-speed internet service. Existing businesses, students and the tourism are also negatively impacted and the potential to develop rural land is compromised. Efficient internet service is now expected as a basic requirement and the problem is constantly exacerbated by ever-increasing demands for band width.

    It’s quite unfair to load this state of affairs on the backs of whatever government is in power. The problem is universal across the western world in sparsely-populated areas. Canadian governments, provincial and federal, are struggling to finance very expensive solutions. Internationally, as always, some jurisdictions are dealing with it better than others. Many countries are establishing minimum broadband speed goals higher than Canada—in the 25 to 100Mbps range. In 2007, the definition of local broadband service here was established at 1.5Mbps. This is being upgraded to a target of 5Mbps as the minimum, with 50 Mbps as a longer-term goal.

    The pertinent question for us is whether current service providers are doing all that can be achieved with current technology. In many areas 1.5Mbps is only realized on good days—and you can’t effectively download or send very much or run a business at those speeds. We darkly joke that our “high speed internet” service “fluctuates between low speed and no speed.”

    We recently spent some time on a fairly remote little island in the Bahamas—a rather economically challenged nation. The population is only 450 souls. Water is piped in from a larger island. Electricity is provided by undersea cable from the larger island—and the average internet speed of 3Mbps is double our target rural speed an hour from our largest cities.


  2. Unseen heroes of the woods

    We live right on a river. It’s fabulous for a whole variety of reasons—and on fine weekends in the summer and fall recreational canoeists and kayakers wave and cheerfully greet us as they paddle downriver and we sip red wine on the deck: all very pleasant.

  3. Hitting back at the belligerent elephant next door

    "Our annual (local) travel issue was never more significant."

    World-wide travel generally is experiencing a boom—a seven per cent hike last year.

    But American President Donald Trump’s persistent bellicosity—and, most significantly, the “Muslim ban” last year, resulted in an approximately four per cent decrease in foreign visitor travel to the United States in 2017—so that then becomes an 11 per cent deficiency, resulting in $4.6 billion in lost spending and 40,000 lost jobs.

  4. To be (bold) or not to be

    "Our (perhaps naïve) thinking continues to be that respectful people can agree to disagree..."

    It is usual and conventional for magazines to feature an Editor’s Letter at the front, usually highlighting what is inside—and (we find) often boring.

    It has always been our view that if you have the privilege (and the responsibility) of speaking to half a million people, then you probably should have something to say. We decided early in the life of this publication that we would try to do that—to make people think, to generate and stimulate conversation and an exchange of ideas and opinions. It is always useful to be exposed to the views, experience and knowledge of others. We consider that function to be an important element of what we do—part of the service if you will.

  5. Have you had your hug today?

    "Let’s halt the political correctness police at the Quebec border"

    It was just one of life’s ugly moments. Downstairs from our offices at the time was a small food court. Behind the counter of one of the vendors was a lovely, gregarious gal with a still fairly healthy Newfoundland accent—and accordingly, she called just about every customer “my love”.

    One of our staff just happened to be present when a female customer, clearly unfamiliar with Newfoundland familiarity, took loud offence. The precise wording was sexual in nature and horribly abusive and best not quoted here, but the poor darlin’ behind the counter was mortified.

  6. A woman’s place is—outside the home

    "...robust and unintimidated women are taking up outdoor recreational pursuits at an accelerated pace."

    We have a nice little piece inside on a traditional annual cold month distraction in this part of the world—harvesting those delicious, and plentiful, smelts.

    But all of these stories remind us, painfully, that young people are just not into the outdoors as much these days, preferring instead to mindlessly, and addictively, peruse their electronic devices.

    Indeed, the overall male participation in outdoor activities has been in general decline for several decades now.

  7. An embarrassment of riches brings a wealth of responsibility

    “’s a huge industry vital to the economy of three of the four Atlantic provinces...”

    We were in the Netherlands (quite) a few years ago a couple of days after the tail end of a hurricane had blasted its way across that flat expanse of lowland. The patches of trees (only a few hundred acres each) that represent all that is forested in that heavily agricultural country were seriously damaged with limbs and blowdowns all over the place.

    But by the time we arrived two days later it had all been fastidiously cleaned up: there wasn’t a twig on the ground anywhere—so precious are those rare tracts of forested land in this tiny, crowded country. Human nature dictates that we treasure what’s scarce.

  8. What’s old is new again: and that’s a good thing

    “...there are some things that weren’t broken and perhaps should never have been fixed.”

    We studiously try hard not to preach (for it’s condescending and counter-productive) but we do try to put subtle points in front of you along the way. Among them is the fact that traditions and values and all those things related to them have developed through a long progression of social evolution. In other words, society has determined, through an extended process of collective wisdom, that those things are correct and necessary and good.

    So we should never dispose of them lightly and move on merely because it’s “hip” or “cool”.

  9. Simpler lives in simpler times

    It’s sad in so many ways.

    We have a piece inside this issue describing life on a coastal boat servicing outports on the south coast of Newfoundland. Visiting those isolated communities is something relatively few have experienced. We are happy to say we are among them: our first of a dozen visits was 40 years or so ago.

    Perhaps the most lasting first impression was delight at the happiest kids we had ever seen. Rosy-cheeked with semi-permanent devilish grins, they seemed to revel in complete freedom.

  10. Identifying the things that really matter

    ...You understand that people are what matter and that there are no “ordinary” people...

    We emerged, grateful, from the 2017 Atlantic Journalism Awards event in St. John’s in early May with three prizes—two gold and one silver: not bad.

    But the experience jogged an interesting memory.

    In early 2003 we were interviewed by the Ryerson School Review of Journalism. The resulting article described our editorial content as “watered down” and “sweet but shallow”.