British Journal of Canadian Studies

Foe, Friend and Fragility: Evolving Settler Interactions with the Newfoundland Wilderness

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2008), 21, (1), 35–62.

Abstract

European fishermen settling in Newfoundland considered the island's interior dauntingly inimical. In time they discovered resources to supply the rough necessities of life; their relatively sustainable 'folk development' facilitated outport survival. Subsequent colonial governments, challenged by declining fisheries, gambled on industrial development of the colony's natural resources, including timber. This yielded substantial economic, social and political benefits. Indeed, its infrastructure legacy has resulted in the forests and barrens now seeming benign to contemporary Newfoundlanders: nature, tamed to a degree, allows recreation and adventure. Yet the limits to forest exploitation are becoming increasingly evident. This paper poses the question: Might it be possible for community democracy and ecological activism in the island of Newfoundland, with sympathetic industrial and government responses, to bring about a lasting balance, turning foes into friends, and providing for people's needs whilst protecting the fragility of nature?

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Collins, David