Rural Nova Scotia: Dorian’s Wake Shows Importance of Community, Self-Reliance

A river, laden with debris, flows past a destroyed fishing shed near Halifax on Sept. 8, the day after Dorian’s arrival in the Maritimes. – Reuters

In this opinion piece in The Globe and Mail, author Noah Richler writes about the ineffectiveness of government in the face of tropical storm Dorian and the importance of both community and self-reliance – In rural Nova Scotia, Dorian’s wake shows the importance of community and self-reliance.

…last weekend, came Dorian, which Nova Scotia Power described to me as “the most destructive storm we’ve yet seen.”

…After a couple of hours, the lights flickered and went out. Come evening, as was happening across the province (and does in any disaster-struck Canadian community, I’m sure), several of us checked in on other households, those of seniors especially. We were lucky, the only tree we lost was a lilac. In the Annapolis Valley, the farmers were not – a good part of their apple and corn crops were destroyed – and neither were our immediate neighbours, two enormous maples falling down upon their house. Against what would have been official advice – had we been in a position to receive it – we used a ladder to check the integrity of the roof, walls and windows. In the drenching rain, a neighbour helped me get my generator started before we tried, unsuccessfully, to do the same for a friend down the road and gave him warmth through company instead.

Ours was one of Nova Scotia’s 400,000 households without power (the number of people obviously much greater) – this, a staggering 80 per cent of the population. At dawn the next morning, wondering what else was in store, I lay in my cold bed listening to the CBC, national and local, on our battery-powered radio – a part of the kit advised by government emergency-management co-ordinators – waiting for information about what I should or was able to do in the aftermath.

…Astonishingly, or perhaps not, the CBC was of no practical use. You’d think a public broadcaster would be communicating vital information after an occurrence such as Dorian and quite reasonably expect, by district, information in the event of a medical emergency (Nova Scotia is already disastrously short of services on sunny days); a list of roads safe to travel; of gas stations that are up and running; news about the airport and flights; and regular updates on the restoration of services – for it to be making public service announcements, in other words, and for these to be broadcast on the hour. Instead, the CBC was reporting the hurricane as entertainment… I was told…that if I wanted Hurricane Dorian updates, to go to the network’s Storm Centre online … where the CBC had also posted pictures!

Except that most of us could not. The CBC evidently had no idea that what “no power” means for Nova Scotians is no light, no water, no heat, no landline for those without analog sets – and no internet.

…No power means no contact.

Which is when the community kicks in…

What we have learned from Hurricane Dorian, but also the countless other “natural” disasters that have struck Canada in recent years – the Fort McMurray fires and the flooding of Canmore, Gatineau and High River come to mind – is that when, as will happen more and more, infrastructure fails, communities’ self-reliance is key…

And so, ironically, we have reached a point where the environmentalists of the left and, on the right, libertarians and survivalists, are thinking along the same lines: The state, when it is interested, cannot be depended upon, so get off the grid, create your own…

We’re alone out here, and it’s hard not to see the failings that natural events such as Dorian put on show, as harbingers of worse to come. No, it’s not an entertainment. There’s serious work to be done.

Click here to read the entire piece at The Globe and Mail.