Heather Menzies received the honour of the Ottawa Book Award for Non-Fiction on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.
Here is what the jurors said:
“In this eloquent memoir written from the heart, Menzies takes the reader on a fascinating trip to the Scotland of her ancestors to examine and retrace life on the Scottish Commons. With a light and at times poetic touch, she offers her insights into how the venerable wisdom of sharing and caring for the land might be applied today. A unique combination of memoir and manifesto, Reclaiming the Commons urges us to become participants in changing our world for the common good.”
Dr. Richard T. Clippingdale, Suzanne Evans and merilyn simonds
If we are to heal the earth, we must also heal ourselves, individually and as communities. Moreover, the two are inter-connected. It’s all about relations — relations of mutual recognition and respect and mutual support and sustainability. It’s also about the daily practices of mutuality and responsible self-governance that support these relations.
First, that we all have ancestral relations to the land; and,
second, that positioning ourselves to reclaim this, at first just in our imagination as a possible shift in perspective, is a critical step in reconnecting with the earth and the urgent task of transforming our economic and political relations with it, for mutual survival.
I recommend that Rachel Notley bring together not a blue-ribbon commission, but one with a green ribbon and a yellow, black, red and white one to represent the equal voice that will be given to Aboriginal understandings of ‘development’.
The election of Rachel Notley at a time when depressed oil prices have pushed the ‘pause’ button on runaway resource development in Alberta. It offers a karma-like opportunity to re-think what ‘development’ means — especially for the people who’ve grown tired of the same old ways and voted for change. These ways, once summarized by the line that “What’s good for General Motors is good for America”, have long outlived their usefulness, while delivering less and less to fewer and fewer people.
The corporate good and corporate development are no longer synonymous with the common good. It’s time to reclaim the common good and re-define ‘development’ in terms that are answerable to it.
On May 26, I’ll be giving the opening keynote address to an international conference on the Commons in Edmonton, and have titled my talk: “Righting Relations with the Land and the Global Economy: Lessons from our Ancestors on the Commons.” Moreover, I will be paired with Grand Chief Steve Courtoreille, who will speak of how his ancestors related to the land in what is now Treaty 8 Territory in Alberta.
People working to reclaim cities as habitats, especially habitats that can sustain them with healthy food, water and transportation options, are in a sense reclaiming the commons. Certainly the commons offers a useful heritage to draw on, starting with the shift of perspective involved: seeing ourselves as inhabitants of local habitats, which cities are. The commons heritage also affirms seeing ourselves as implicated in shaping relations with and within this shared habitat, not waiting for politicians, bureaucrats or investors to respond to local needs and issues.
When the great Crash, ecologic or economic, comes, Heather Menzies’ brilliant critique will provide an understanding of why it came about, and a path towards a truly sustainable way for humanity to live on the planet.
– David Suzuki
By Heather Menzies, Author of Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good
Heather with her friends at her annual ladies gardening party.
Divestment is part of the shift, but only the moving-away-from-the problem part. Moving toward the positive vision I outlined, of a society and global economy operating within the carrying capacity of the earth and its atmosphere, requires a partner line of action: what I call re-vestment.