Rural: Is It Worth Saving?

Wednesday, May 3, 2006, at 7:30 pm NST
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College

Click here to view the video of the session.

Dr. Ivan Emke, Associate Professor and Programme Chair of Social/Cultural Studies, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

Pick up any daily newspaper and, if you look carefully in the spaces between the major articles on life in the city, you can find the stories of rural areas. Many of them are stories of despair – loss of services, youth out-migration, economic collapse, environmental challenge, struggles in governance, a culture of poverty. Some are stories of an idyllic past that will not return, stories that drip of romanticism. But here and there are stories of courage, of conviction, of defiance even.

Reading between the lines, these stories highlight the fact that the crisis of rural communities is not simply an economic or structural crisis, but it is also a social and cultural crisis. They raise the question of why rural is worth saving – or even if it is worth saving at all. Certainly an influx of small manufacturing industries and primary processing sites and government services offices and even call centres would provide some economic relief. However, they might not answer the underlying question of why we bother with rural anymore.

In some ways, it is easy to understand the population exodus from some rural communities. It is harder to understand the cultural exodus, if you will. As small communities slowly bleed, we need to know what we’re losing, while we might still be able to save the patient.

The short and possibly provocative title of this talk contains a number of major assumptions covered in the presentation:

(1) that rural is in danger of being lost

(2) that we have a choice in the matter

(3) if we decide to save rural, it will have a cost

(4) that it is still an open question

How we are addressing these assumptions at present, as a province and as a nation? What data is available to explain the current situation? What are some of the economic challenges, but also the social and cultural challenges of rural? How is rural represented? Do we have a sense of the value of rural communities for urban areas? If we lose the rural amenities that we have, how will that affect the vitality of our society and culture in general?

Through the use of research vignettes and data chunks, Dr. Emke will present some of the building blocks used in approaching the question. However, the major goal of the presentation is to think more broadly and holistically about the nature of rural in a modern, globalizing era.

Download Dr. Emke's presentation: PowerPoint slides and Word document.

Download the poster and the program.