Neither Here Nor There

Peter Pickersgill
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Seven billion

This month it was announced the seven billionth human being had been born on the planet earth.


A baby girl named ‘Nargis’, born to Ajay and Vineeta in the village of Mal, 20 kiometres from Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Can you picture where that is exactly? No?

Me neither, but no worries, it’s not important.

If you can’t picture where the seven billionth person was born, spin the globe, close your eyes and stick your finger on a spot. When the globe stops spinning and you open your eyes maybe your finger will be touching the Philippines where Danica May Camacho, was delivered just before midnight Sunday at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. Also said to be the seven billionth child.

Or maybe your finger is pointing at Ottawa where Angela McCrindle gave birth to a boy at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. Caiden Lewis McCrindle, a brother to Emma, 8, and Jacob, 4, was delivered by C-section at 8:32 a.m. EST and weighed seven pounds, four ounces.

Both mother and baby are doing well in the certain knowledge they starred in number seven billion’s production.

Truth is, who is really able to tell which kid was the seventh billion?

The important news is there are a lot of people on this planet and the number is growing all the time.

Uttar Pradesh, where little Nagis is now into her second week of life,  is India's most populous state. An estimated 11 children are born there every minute. That’s a significant percentage of the approximately 250 births per minute worldwide.

To put that in context, .00050228105831 of a baby is born per minute in Newfoundland and Labrador. Give or take.

I don’t know how many cells that represents but I’m guessing it is something like a very small part of one eyelash.

But we needn’t close our eyes to the implications of these statistics. In Uttar Pradesh they are desperate to slow down a birth rate creating a population explosion that is not sustainable.

In Newfoundland and Labrador our problem is not with the birth rate but with the exit rate. Our off-Avalon population will not be long able to sustain itself, if things continue as they are.

One thing this province and that Indian state have in common is the long term future of the rural population and the consequent effect on the urban population. People are fleeing rural life in both places.

In Uttar Pradesh the influx of hordes of people to the cities is a vastly greater crisis than the nuisance of long line-ups at Tim Horton’s drive-throughs in Conception Bay South.

Here we are faced with the government-assisted emptying of rural Newfoundland, the place where our long-term industry is located, the one that brought Europeans here, an industry that can sustain a vibrant and growing population long after today’s oil boom hiccup is a distant memory.

But it requires imagination. It requires decision makers understand that what led to the northern cod moratorium was treating fish as a low value, inexhaustible commodity We know now the commodity was not inexhaustible and we are carefully monitoring its slow return.

But there is no sign we place any higher value on it than we ever did. If so, why are the same destructive fishing methods still permitted?

Why are our fishery products not kept in our people’s hands, until all possible value has been added to them? Why are we not actively courting the niche markets for connoisseurs of our top notch cold water delicacies? Why instead do we dump the vast bulk of our battered-fish into North American gullets that crave maximum quantity at minimum cost.

These people were away the day the word quality was taught in school.

Battered fish. Another social ill that needs to be declared a crime.

Why are we headed toward a re-structuring of the fishery that will put more power and money into the hands of fewer participants with the inevitable closing of communities and displacement of population?

Why not more small family-owned boats delivering sustainable volumes of fish to more small plants all around the shore?  Near where the fish swim and the people live.

Why not human-touch value-added workers who prepare delicacies rather than assembly-line machinery that cuts, boxes and ships into the lowest common denominator marketplace fetching a  measly return?

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the other day the fishery has to be re-structured and run ‘like a business’. I couldn’t agree more.

‘Like a business’ that sees long term. ‘Like a business’ that hopes to last forever. ‘Like a business’ that manages the raw materials so they last forever.

‘Like a business’ that assures long term prospects for their associates in boats and their employees on shore and ‘Like a business’ that assures the same to their children into the future. ‘Like a business’ that seeks out markets who truly care for the product and are prepared to pay for quality.

Once upon a time our fishery was like the seven billion who now inhabit this planet. The fishery can be like that again. If we manage it properly.

‘Like a business’ that can sustain our people forever.


Organizations: Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, Queensway-Carleton Hospital, North American

Geographic location: Uttar Pradesh, Newfoundland and Labrador, Lucknow Philippines Manila Ottawa India

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