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Open Access Idyll and Industry: Rethinking the Environmental History of Grand Pré, Nova Scotia

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In June 2012, UNESCO named the landscape of Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, a World Heritage Site, as 'exceptional testimony to a traditional farming settlement created in the seventeenth century by the Acadians in a coastal zone with tides that are among the highest in the world'. Grand Pré is the gateway to the Annapolis Valley, a rare stretch of favourable soils and climate in a largely unarable province. From the early nineteenth century onward, ambitions to make the Valley 'the Orchard of the Empire' resulted in some of the most intensive rural development in Atlantic Canada. This transformed the physical, ecological and economic landscape of Nova Scotia profoundly, and became central to its sense of place in the global community. Its fields and orchards also inspired a second industry: tourism, promoting, ironically, a decidedly non-industrial picture of blithe fertility and prosperity. In recent decades, both agriculture and tourism in the region have created a new idyll, one that grafts the language of sustainability onto the pastoral image of apple blossoms, and so successfully draws attention away from the ecological costs and economic health of agriculture in the region. With its focus on pre-industrial Acadian settlement, historical commemoration at Grand Pré has the very real effect of affirming the possibility of local and sustainable agriculture in the area today. But the pré is also part of another history, another set of agricultural practices that followed the Acadians and that still frame most agricultural production in Nova Scotia. This essay offers a second public narrative for Grand Pré, one that treats the site as part of the Annapolis Valley as well as l'ancienne Acadie, part of an industrial landscape as well as an idyllic one. It is only by recognizing both histories that we can really appreciate the realities of modern agriculture and the need for sustainable alternatives.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The London Journal of Canadian Studies is an interdisciplinary journal specialising in Canadian history, politics and society and has been published annually since 1984. The current editor of the LJCS is Dr Tony McCulloch, Senior Fellow in North American Studies at the Institute of the Americas and President of the British Association for Canadian Studies.

    This is an Open Access journal, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY). This licence permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. For more information see: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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