The Spring of Our Discontent
We like to stay on top of things here at In the Hills. That’s why last fall we ran a long feature on the impact of rising oil prices. Would…
We like to stay on top of things here at In the Hills. That’s why last fall we ran a long feature on the impact of rising oil prices. Would it cause an exodus from the countryside? Would the tourism industry crash? That sort of thing. The ink was barely dry on the issue when the price of oil began to plummet. The price at the pump was $1.22/litre last September, today it’s $0.85/litre. But that was about it for the good news. Since then there has been a veritable hurricane of dire economic developments and even more dire prognostications.
Exactly fifty years ago, perhaps the worst economic disaster ever to hit this region occurred on the day the Avro Arrow was cancelled and thousands of local residents were thrown out of work. As Jeff Rollings prepared his retrospective of that Black Friday for this issue, the daughter of an Avro employee, Diane Allengame, described it this way: “People were buying homes, cottages, cars. Then it all crashed around them. Sound familiar?” Yes, it does.
But as a 1959 newspaper editorial also noted, the Arrow’s epitaph “must surely include the recognition that for better or worse it left its mark on the growth and development of Peel County. There can be no turning back now.”
And there was no turning back. The heady development days were upon the countryside and, well, as we all knew, “You can’t stop progess.” But perhaps you can redefine it. As the century closed, concerns about climate change mounted and the environmental movement went viral as a new word entered the popular lexicon: “sustainability.” Now, at last, the countryside is no longer considered just vacant land waiting for glorious development, but a complex ecosystem whose trees and water and farmlands and fresh air are considered a vital component of our very survival as a species – with those of us who live here as its front-line guardians.
In her analysis of the controversy over Caledon’s Rockfort quarry, Nicola Ross examines one example of the complex competition between the demands of our contemporary lifestyles and the preservation of our ecosystems. And in her reflections on a recent trip to rural France, Liz Beatty finds new meaning in simple truths about valuing what we have over what we can get.
Things change – and change can be a good thing if we embrace it with courage and conscience. If you have any doubts, consider finally Ken Weber’s story of one pioneering soul, Clara Brett Martin. If the deeply held prejudices (including her own), typical of the times during her struggle to become the first woman lawyer in the British Empire, were not so offensive, by today’s standards, they would seem laughable.
Things change. We’ll get through it. Be happy if you can.