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Bob Maher: A Sense of Place

(The author was Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) until 2011. Jon Murphy was a member of the group in the early 2000’s before founding GoGeomatics Canada.)

GoGeomatics has become the ‘go-to-place’ for Geomatics professionals in Canada.

While involved in Applied Geomatics, the author would contribute the occasional blog. Since retirement, his focus has been on local events in rural Nova Scotia. He maintains a separate blog site, ernestblairexperiment.wordpress.com

Jon suggested a book review. My current source of inspiration is Gary Snyder’s essays,The Practice of the Wild. To avoid repetition, check out my blog posted November 4, 2020 Crown Lands.

From the essay ‘Survival and Sacrament’ p.179.

“The other kind of knowledge comes from straying outside. Thoreau writes of the crab apple, “Our wild apple is wild only like myself, perchance, who belongs not to the aboriginal race here, but have strayed into the woods from cultivated stock”. John Muir carries these thoughts along In Wild Wool, he quotes a farmer friend who tells him, “Culture is an orchard apple; Nature is a crab.” (To go back to the wild is to become sour, astringent, crabbed. Unfertilized, unpruned, tough, resilient and every Spring shockingly beautiful in bloom). Virtually all contemporary people are cultivated stock, but we can stray back to the woods.”

For an understanding of your place in the world, go to the local literature. For example, in Southwest Nova Scotia, my choice would be Ernest Buckler. For Cape Breton, Alistair Macleod. To understand Western Newfoundland, read Anthony Berger about the stories of his Mother, Ella Manuel.

Besides your professional career, develop a ‘sense of place’. Many of today’s issues demand the understanding of a Geographer, and the technologies of Geomatics. In Canada, we are wrestling with complex resource management issues: on the land and on the water. Each of these issues are impacted, in turn, by climate change and the COVID epidemic.

Or as Snyder reminds us: “all contemporary people are cultivated stock, but we can stray back to the woods.”

Also I found this quotation by Robert Bateman in the Preface to the book ‘Islands in the Salish Sea. A Community Atlas’. Edited by Sheila Harrington and Judi Stevenson. 2005. The Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia.

“In our global, packaged world we are losing a sense of place. This is a philosophical tragedy. It results in a lack of caring, a lack of sense of community and a neglect of civil responsibility. It is also an environmental and human tragedy. For with this loss of knowledge of and intimacy with our home place, we are losing our sense of spirit.” -Robert Bateman


Gary Snyder.1990. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press.

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