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September……

September 3, 2011

Ah, it is that time again when the summer days wind down and the autumn season falls upon us. In Ottawa, the capital of Canada and the greatest nation on Earth it means three main things. First, the return of university students to the city’s two busy campuses. Second, the restart of hockey season. And third, the return of the politicians to the House of Commons.

In many ways September marks the true beginning of the year more so than does January. With this in mind, I’d like to re-instigate my former life as a writer, historian and intellectual.

After a summer working at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa and studying a number of obscure or forgotten artefacts from Canada’s Cold War era, my worldview in many ways has broadened. I have become a lot more intrigued with artefact and object history as well as some of the lost stories that mark our greatest period in scientific and artistic achievements.

I am very mindful that studying artefact history as I have described may come off to the reader as an exercise with little relevance or interest to contemporary times.  However as I am hoping to show in future posts, the artefacts which I have been able to examine (seen herehere , and here) as well as the other pieces in the collection that have continued to sit silently on a shelf for over forty years in an industrial park in East Ottawa, have done so to our great misfortune as Canadians. I believe ultimately that if many scientific objects are brought to life by historians and contextualized with today’s technological developments and possibilities, that we can reclaim our true identity as a scientific and innovative nation.

Some may scoff at the suggestion that our great and diverse and pluralistic nation-state could ever be confined to a single definition. In this I somewhat agree. However in many instances there are some contemporary thinkers who do believe that Canada is undergoing an identity transformation as we speak. One of these figures who I have found quite inspiring is Ian Mckay of Queen’s University who has made a pretty convincing case that the federal Conservative government endorses the effort to re-brand the country as a “Warrior Nation.”  Historians with long established careers such as David Bercuson (as seen here )or Jack Granatstein (as seen here)  in many ways have made it a point to show that beyond all else, Canada’s military heritage should be considered foremost when thinking about our national history. Time and again such attitudes have found their way into direct policy action or general atttiudes by the government. In most recent examples, certain arms of the military were given their former designations of the “Royal Canadian Air Force” and the “Royal Canadian Navy”  while the Canadian Forces has been touted as having “punched above its weight” in Libya.

Whether or not the reader agrees with the gripes and connections that I make, my main objective is to deliberately help counter this warrior-identity that some historians are putting forward. Instead I want to offer the idea that Canada, more than anything else, is an innovative, creative, resourceful and especially scientific nation that needs to rediscover its heritage. My inclination is that at no other time in recent memory has the world needed scientific creativity and revolution – whether it be to address climate change, develop alternative energy resources, spur a new economic renaissance in the West, prevent the sale of asbestos to the Third World or ensure that our society remains competitive with rising powers in Asia and the Far East.

Ideas abound for this site and I hope to retain the inspiration and dedication to help readers think about our heritage as a scientific nation and in doing so provide excitement about the possibilities for the future. It would also be great to build interest in getting a new, world-class building for the Canada Science and Technology Museum before it turns 50 in 2017. With this in mind, I am proposing to launch a publication on November 15, 2011 at the CSTM which can first, begin a bi-monthly contribution to reveal our gaps in knowledge about the country’s scientific heritage; and second, to begin my own fundraising campaign toward having a new building in six years.

In the meantime, if you are a scientist that has been recently laid off by Environment Canada and in need of something to do, please feel free to help me build an enterprise that will bring together our most mindful historians with our scientists and celebrate our scientific heritage.

Until next time, I leave with you some news links that have helped me get the juices flowing.

Links

Officials make another pitch for new Canada Science and Technology Museum home

Australian climate Scientists Targeted by Death Threats

Fisheries biologist ends testimony but still cannot speak freely

Science Must be Free From Politics

Harper Defends Asbestos Exports Despite Cancer Risks

Environment Canada to Slash Hundreds of Jobs

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