An Arcadian Interlude: Counterculture and the Environment Workshop

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Hornby Island, BC, July 5-6, 2011

In a sun-dappled maple grove overlooking the Heron Rock beach on Hornby Island a group of students, faculty and local “back to the landers” circled their chairs to discuss the Counterculture and the Environment. The workshop, supported by NiCHE, was organized by Colin Coates, an island cottage owner and Canada Research Chair in Cultural Landscapes at Glendon College, York University, and generously hosted by the Heron Rocks Friendship Centre Society, an island group dedicated to the social justice and environmental ideals of its founder Hilary Brown. Coates will also act as editor for a forthcoming edited volume on the topic.

Margaret Sinclair, the island archivist, prepared an exhibit on the Hornby Island counterculture movement and the visitors submitted thirteen draft papers for discussion. Two full days of conversation on the papers considered original counterculture issues such as the fear of co-option by government and an attempt to define when and how the counterculture evidenced concern about the environment. More contemporary issues of defining the bounds of the counter culture – back to the landers, urban activists, utopians – and the object of their countering – industrialism, modernism, social injustice and war – were also addressed. The attending Hornbyites contributed their queries and offered colourful examples of their own experiences which are written into the island landscape they shared with us.

The workshop was an important and valuable interdisciplinary step in the production of what promises to be a most interesting book.

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