No, no, no is the answer to the question raised by Peter Moreira (March 17): Can entrepreneurship ‘save’ Atlantic Canada?

Only innovation, radical change in governance — a new spirit to bring new meaning to our existence — can do it. Peddling isn’t the answer.

Atlantic Canada in my lifetime produced more leaders per capita than Canada in the fields of education, commerce, finance, politics, law, medicine and the church. We were once a world mercantile marine superpower. We fell from leader to laggard, blaming national policies.

Space is too short to dredge the whys of The Fall. There’s already too much looking back at what was instead of offering ideas and commitment to provide and pay for the amenities of healthier and happier communities with our own money as proud citizens.

Take productivity. It’s not taken seriously. Businesses soak up tens of billions from taxpayers for innovation and research without lifting productivity by a gnat’s eyelash.

Entrepreneurs, more stores and digital startups to accommodate fertile yearnings to run our own businesses won’t in themselves remove what’s holding us back.

How we think, plan and execute innovation to change our social and economic infrastructure can diminish our dreary myths and malaise.

Ray Ivany wrote the-way-back prescription as “Now or Never.” I’m writing to say how thousands of woodlot owners are doing it every day through innovation.

For all the abuse of our forests from indiscriminate clear cutting and biomass for an over-sized boiler, there’s no shortage of wood, although it’s thin in some places.

There is misallocation in not directing wood to the highest end-use. A majority of woodlot owners won’t sell their wood because they don’t like clear cutting and heavy extraction equipment. There’s a shortage of cutting contractors for those who want to sell, particularly among smaller owners.

Enter spirit and innovation. Eastern woodlot owners introduced provincial sustainability regulations. They convinced government to delegate its private land responsibilities to their association, arguably the most radical institutional change in the country: no more top-down technocratic and bureaucratic interference from politicians with little understanding of the issues.

Members increased their level of cutting and silviculture to 95 per cent from a provincial average of 23 per cent.

Not for the money, but to do the right thing, more than 500 members committed their woodlots to the world’s most responsible certification standard for sustainable forestry, now one of the fastest-growing groups on the continent. They received the world’s highest sustainability award for their efforts.

Contractors are engaged to find ways to use low-impact equipment to improve forest management and wood supply. Woodyards have been set up to sell hardwoods as higher-value logs, not as firewood for stoves and boilers.

For all this, woodlot owners are telling us innovation isn’t a triumph of the spirit in service of responsible forestry unless it’s paid for from their wood, not partly by taxpayers.

Financial independence is as important as making forest policy.

They’ve proposed a pilot carbon credit program to pay for all their private land silviculture while removing 150,000 tons of GHG emissions annually.

Without real and lasting structural change in governance and business, we remain remnants of a once-great social and economic enterprise.

Kingsley Brown is president of the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association