Call for submissions: Imagine New Brunswick 2030

Written by Daniel Tubb and Abram Lutes on June 9, 2019 

Climate change is scary; it is an emergency. We want to change the narrative, and we want your ideas, your stories, and your hope from the future.

First, a preamble. In October 2018 the IPCC gave us twelve years to make dramatic changes to our way of life before the impacts of climate change become irreversible. Eight months have passed since that announcement, and yet it seems that politics continues as usual, even as floods and forest fires ravage the country. Forest fires in Alberta forced Jason Kenney to cancel his planned announcement celebrating the roll-back of the provincial carbon tax, a pyrrhic victory all around. 

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In Praise of Small Places

Culture, Vol. 13, No. 1 - Publics

by Daniel Tubb, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, UNB Fredericton.

There is a North American phenomenon of young people from rural areas and small towns and medium-sized cities moving to the Big City. In Canada, the destinations are Toronto or Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary. In the US, they are New York or Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. But are big places so necessary for creative work?

Richard Florida suggested in 2004 that innovation is urban, and that the “creative class” requires cities. Dense populations and cafes and bars and restaurants and theatres and concerts and bookstores are the intoxicating fuel of creative people. Sarah Schulman, in a way, eviscerates this idea with her haunting critique of the gentrification of urban spaces and the mind, which occurred in New York after the AIDS crisis. Still, she celebrates the authentic artistic scene of urban spaces that she experienced moving to gritty and vibrant New York in the 1970s and 1980s.

Academia has its own narrative where urban places promote creativity and productivity. A class system of prestige accrues to the large, cosmopolitan, research-intensive universities. We seek them out as undergraduate students, as graduate students, and as faculty. They are intensely competitive. Getting in as a student is hard—as faculty well-nigh impossible. As with the trope of successful people in the Big City, if a scholar doesn’t go to a Top University, it is seen as they couldn’t, not as they didn’t want to.

Why such reticence to the small places and their small universities? One is what I’ve come to think of as prejudice against rurality—to echo Wendell Berry’s observation about the prejudice against country people. We need to blow up the academic and social prejudices against small towns and flyover states and the backwoods and their universities. This might need an intersectional perspective to consider people in place, but I digress. What I want to extend here is an invitation to the freedom one can find on the periphery.

My ticket out of a village in Eastern Ontario was a small university. Applying for graduate school and then jobs, I felt the prestige of the Big City and Big Centers. After several years, I finally found a job at the University of New Brunswick. I was lucky, and I didn’t even know it. I hadn’t yet realized the benefits of small places.

In March 2019, I was listening to CBC Radio host Tom Powers interview the Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, novelist, and screenwriter Emma Donaghue, who lives and works in the mid-sized Canadian city of London, Ontario.

“I understand one of the things you love about being here is how productive you get to be. Is that right?” Tom asked.

“If I were in some big glitzy international megacity of the 21st century, there’d be a lot to distract me,” Emma replied. “But, as it is, I’ve had twenty-one years here, and I’ve written quite a lot because there’s not so much getting in the way.”

“That’s a compliment, right?”

“I think so. I mean, London, do you want to be in a city where writers party, or where writers write award-winning screenplays?”

Do you want to be in a city where Anthropologists party, or a town where Anthropologists can get things done?

Fredericton is no 21st-century international megacity. Things shut down on a Sunday afternoon. I am one of a handful of sociocultural anthropologists in the entire province. It is not a city where anthropologists party, although we did host CASCA a few years before my time, and I’ve been to my fair share of parties. There are even more talks and lectures and events than I manage to attend.

Yet, Fredericton and the University of New Brunswick provide conditions more valuable than the so-called urban innovation engendered by Big Cities and their Universities.


The non-existent commute. Dropping my son and wife off is a ten-minute drive. It’s also walkable. A hike in the woods is a few minutes away. There is no traffic, except for a few minutes at five o’clock in the afternoon. The city has places to walk, bike, ski, swim, and do many kinds of things.

The money. It may be gauche to say it, but rent is cheap, daycare is in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. If the time comes, house prices are affordable—some of the cheapest in the country.

A community. I see friends, and we can do things, planning hours not weeks in advance. Having time to meet friend and find a community and recharge, can paradoxically be much harder in a larger city.

The anonymity and lack of competition. I am a small fish in a small pond, yet there are no big fish to gobble me up. I can put my head down and get to work. The university, like any other, keeps me busy. Classes and service and committees and students and meetings and writing and research and grants and email. I run seminars and I teach too widely. But I know my students well, and they number in the dozens and not hundreds. I feel I can slow down a bit, as much as one can at the beginning of the tenure track.

The extra time is time to write, to think, to teach, to invent, to pursue new ideas, to meet, and to organize workshops and events. I’ve had time to write my dissertation into a book, publish some shorter articles, start another book, and successfully apply for a number of grants. My priority is to balance teaching and writing, and here I’ve had time for that and to think and perhaps reach a new public.

One new public, it seems to me, is defined by the places we live. I’m an ethnographer of mining in Colombia, and now of mining in rural New Brunswick.

I write in the morning for a bit, I go to class, I write in the afternoon for a bit. Or, I go to a coffee shop. Or, I walk across the river.

Sure, the grass is greener. I would like more doctoral and masters students, to teach less widely, more colleagues to talk ethnography with, and more scholars and people who care about Colombia and Latin America.

But would all that intellectual partying let me have so much time to think and write?

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A message from New Brunswick’s future – Imagine NB 2030

Written by Daniel Tubb on May 17, 2019 

in EnvironmentFrederictonNew BrunswickPolitics - No comments

David Coon, MLA for Fredericton South and New Brunswick’s Green Party Leader, joins the youth rallying for climate action at the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton in April 2019. Photo by Jill Watson.

In the optimistic spirit of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message from the Future, this is a speculative look back from 2030, which imagines Canada and New Brunswick from 2030, to think about how we met our climate change obligations. It is fiction, but it need not be.

The New Brunswick Green New Deal began to seem possible eleven years ago. It was 2019, and that spring floodwaters ravaged New Brunswick; the Ottawa River washed through the capital; a dike levy broke to waterlog Montréal; and the list of small towns and villages flooded across Ontario and Quebec seemed endless. 

It wasn’t just Eastern Canada, though. That long hot summer, drought hit British Columbia and Alberta. The vast wildfires in the BC interior of 2019 started early. The blazes in 2019 made the fires of 2017 and 2018 seem like small dress rehearsals. It was Canada’s Paradise. Vancouver and Calgary were swamped by climate refugees. It was like a war zone, but the bombs were climatic.

Such climate catastrophe had always seemed so far away: mudslides and wildfires in California, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, floods in Houston, and cyclones in India.

What became clear in 2019 was that it wasn’t climate change, it was a climate catastrophe. The catastrophe was undeniable, and yet governments and corporations were in denial. 

We were already living it, and they were not doing enough.

With the scars of fire and flood on our minds, Canadians we began to wonder, “Is there nothing we can do?”

Something could be done, people began to realize. They realized the old economics was not only bankrupt, but had caused the problems in the first place. What the economists had missed, was the obvious. Economic growth on a finite planet can lead only to disaster. The arithmetic was simple, even young families crowded into condos with two kids could easily understand. There wasn’t enough space for everyone on the planet to live like people in Canada—we would need 4.7 planets.

It was not just a summer of realization; it was also a summer of climate action. People began to mobilize and to organize. Students held regular Friday climate strikes. The Extinction Rebellion came to North America. Learning from Greta Thunberg, high school kids from New Brunswick crossed the country by train to galvanize support.

In a country shaken by floods and still burning, the long hot summer of 2019 was the summer when students, Indigenous communities, unions, workers, activists, environmentalists, and voters began to see that doing nothing in the face of climate catastrophe was not inevitable, it was suicidal.

There were alternatives.

It was an election year in Canada. The Conservative parties split the vote on the right, and the scandal-riven Liberals fell back on their clichés and tired old tropes of Neoliberal Carbon Capitalism from the 20th century, which was to become as bankrupt as Communism at the fall of the Berlin Wall. The market will save us, the Liberals seemed to cry. But, their carbon tax was far too little, far too late. Their tax shifted the burden of climate change onto the poorest and least able to pay. It was intensely unpopular. This unpopularity was part of the problem.

The Liberal government fell not to the Conservatives, of course. How could they? The Conservatives still denied climate change. Their leaders were strategizing with oil companies in Alberta. In Ontario, the Provincial Conservatives, with the Doug Ford government, committed to do less than previous governments. Instead, the Liberal majority fell to become partners in a Grand Green Coalition for Climate Change.

It was a Green wave that went further and faster than even the floods had.

The Grand Green Coalition swept to power on the promise of a Green New Deal. Over the next ten years, Canada implemented an aggressive plan of climate transformation and decarbonization, of investments in energy and infrastructure and efficiency, of taxing and shutting down carbon emitters, of restarting the economy for millions with new training and creating new green jobs of retrofitting inefficient buildings, and of creating a popular universal basic income which helped win support and transform an economy away from dirty carbon. Together, it was this shift that allowed us to surpass the Paris Climate agreement by 2030 and to begin to decarbonize.

Our Grand Green Coalition in Canada did not do it alone, of course. The coalition was inspirational, and it helped inspire the election of the Green wing of the Democratic Party, which brought a new President to the White House, who mobilized the United States around a Green New Deal. That was when things began to move quickly. Europe, China, and India followed suit.

It was exciting to be alive. We barely made it, of course. It was a hard decade, perhaps the hardest since the Great Depression and World War Two. But we did it. It is 2030, I’m 47, my son is 16, my parents are 81, and although few people thought we would, we are on track to limiting the climate catastrophe to below 2 degrees. The path towards decarbonization and negative carbon emissions is clear.

The year 2019 of fire and flood was an important year not just because Canadians saw the climate catastrophe wash into away their homes and burn their communities, but because it was the summer despair ended and hard work began.

Daniel Tubb is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. He is a co-investigator with RAVEN.

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It’s time for New Brunswickers to unite around a Green New Deal

A grand new idea is emerging around the world to combat climate catastrophe. A hopeful idea, a way to respond to the clear and present existential threat of our time. My generation’s defining moment. Students and activists and politicians and economists around the world have proposed a vision of a Green New Deal

New Brunswick cannot be left behind. We need our own.

For some living in Fredericton, or on Grand Lake, or in Maugerville, or Gagetown, or the Saint John Valley, Spring 2019 was a catastrophe. Flooded homes. Closed highways. Communities cut off. It is going to get worse. The science is clear.

We are already witnessing what climate catastrophe and crisis looks like around the world, and right home here in New Brunswick. David Wallace-Wells writes in The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming that “it is worse, much worse, than you think.”

Yet we do little in this province.

Yet we do little in this province. There is no Spring at the end of the climate crisis; no back to normal.

It was wet this Spring, and it’s going to get wetter. Summers drier. Storms far worse. Ticks and disease. We are not prepared, and sandbags and soldiers will not be enough.

How long will Fredericton last as the river keeps rising, every spring? What does two feet more do? Three feet? What does Saint John look like as the highest tides in the world get far higher? Do we have to wait for fires like in BC and Alberta to rip through or towns and villages?

We need to respond because it is already a climate emergency.

Yet our business leaders who are now our politicians continue business as usual in the face of an impending crisis. Business as usual is profitable, for some. But the climate catastrophe it’s causing will be devastating for all of us.

And yet, some organize against a carbon tax. The carbon tax is bad, not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough. We don’t need to just tax carbon, we need to transform our way of life and our economies.

Our children are organizing Friday’s climate strikes and a campaign against an ecocide of the very ecosystems we rely on to live, to eat, to work, and to play. They don’t care about gas prices, they do care about where they’re going to live in twelve years when they’re graduating high school’s and universities and looking for a job. Twelve years is how long the IPCC tells us we have to avoid total catastrophe, and limit warming to 1.5°C. And, those jobs are not going to be in pumping oil in Alberta, because if they are we are doomed as a planet.

If perhaps our planetary survival depends on a global movement, we also need own provincial vision. Our kids need it. The need to act globally doesn’t preclude the need to act locally. 

In New Brunswick, our emissions per capita are 20.0 tonnes CO2: 3% above the Canadian average of 19.4 tonnes per capita. 

We need a provincial Green New Deal. A plan to tax corporations, and to invest in a transition to renewable energy and clean industry and away from dirty oil refining and industrial scale clear cutting. Such a Green New Deal requires a just transition. One that transforms our infrastructure, reimagines our cities, rethinks our transportation, reshapes the province’s economy, empowers our communities, and embraces renewable energy sources.

It’s about electricity. Some of this will be embracing of renewable energy–solar panels, or windmills, or hydropower. Some of it will also be thinking efficiency. 

It’s economic. New Brunswick is one a Canada‘s poorest provinces. We need to rethink our economy which relies on natural resource extraction.

None of it can be business as usual, it cannot be 20th century dirty carbon capitalism. 

Our children demand it, and before the flood waters rise again, we should too.

On May 8th Megan Mitton, the Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, tabled a motion to declare a climate emergency in NB. Bravo to the Greens. 

Will the legislature act? 

The children and teenagers and young people organizing the Friday Climate Strike on the legislature demand action. 

Declaring a climate emergency would is the first step. The second, imagining what a Green New Deal in New Brunswick will look like by 2030.

Daniel Tubb is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

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It’s anthropologies, not anthropology

A little auto-ethnography. Writing this, I look east over the white crested waves of the Saint John River through the girders of a bridge, once a railway now a footpath, and on towards the hillside campus of the University of New Brunswick Fredericton. Amongst the ubiquitous brick, there is a lone wooden building, also red. Once, rumour has it, the building housed prisoners during the Second World War. Now, it houses the Department of Anthropology and my office. All of this is a far cry from the bustling city of Santiago de Cuba and the annual meetings of the Canadian Anthropology Society in May 2018. Not least because the Saint John River was colder than the Caribbean, but also because there are far fewer anthropologists. And yet, I’m convinced my department is a microcosm for the part of a CASCA meeting I enjoy the most.

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My day today

My day today is catching up on reading in the morning, alongside two meetings in the afternoon.

I have just finished my morning writing, and I'm very excited. For the first time since finishing a draft of the book in March, I've been able to focus on one writing project in my morning sessions for ten days straight. I'm making steady progress, according to the brilliant Timing app: an hour and 44 minutes today, and 10 hours and 45 minutes over the last ten days. Best of all, I'm stopping while the going is good, and I feel energized for the next task. It helps that I sit outside, at a table, in my small garden.

The contrast with what I did in most of June and July is striking. I was having trouble with Jessica Abel's one goal to rule them all, and instead was picking away at an article under revise and resubmit, the new book idea about Colombia, one of two grant applications, and a new book idea about New Brunswick. I've picked the first, and in a few weeks should have the article revised and resubmitted.

In the meantime, I'm going to the office to read.

Timing App

Over the years, I've tried various ways to keep track of my writing. Last year, I logged my daily words counts for my dissertation to monograph writing for about ten months, until being a new professor meant I stopped keeping the log. I kept writing, mind, but ran out of steam in tracking my word counts. However, since I submitted my manuscript a few months ago, I've not been writing productively nor been diligent about tracking where my writing time goes. I've started three or four projects and made little progress on what I need to be doing.

Advice from sources as diverse as Jessica Abel and Paul Silvia suggest keeping track of where your time goes as one step towards being more productive. When I relaized I spend an hour a day reading the newspaper, the excuse I have no time begins to make no sense.

A few days ago, I started to use Timing an app for MacOS X. I've not purchased the app yet, but I plan to because it solves two issues with using a Google Sheet or a custom Tinderbox file to track word counts.

First, the friction of making an entry is almost nill: Click a menu icon, name the item, assign the project, and you're done.

Second, unlike my Google Sheet or Tinderbox, the focus here is not word count, but time. I find writing words easy enough. 99% of my writing is revision. As such, many of my words count entries last year were estimates, a rough guess at how many words I had revised.

I've come to think it more important to account for time spent writing, not words revised. There are other similar apps out there, but I like Timing because it does not sync to a cloud server and therefore there are no privacy issues, because it is not subscription based, and because there is no iPhone app.

The lack of an iPhone app might seem a weakness, but I find it useful to account for what I do on the computer, not everything I do.

A few days into using Timing, and I'm happy. If I am still using the app by the time the free trial runs out, I will purhcase it.

On handwriting

I spent yesterday drafting, longhand, an idea. Sheila Lamb likes to write by hand, too.

The first draft always begins on paper with ink. Sometimes, the first handwritten words are a line, a sentence, a phrase. Sometimes, a scene. Usually, these words will not be in the final story. But they mark the magical moment where the story began.

I spent almost all of yesterday writing. I woke up at 6:30 am, and other than taking my son to school and a little bit of procrastination in the early afternoon, I wrote by hand with a fountain pen in a spiral bound notebook. 34 pages, mostly single spaced.

I agree with Lamb:

I find ideas flow better from paper to pen. When I handwrite, I write fast. Inspiration can be elusive and I want to get the words on paper without disruption. There is a smooth connection from pen to hand, something that, for me, pencils don’t give. Computers certainly don’t. The pen is, literally, a fluid implement. I favor gel pens (a Pilot G-2).

My drug of choice is not a gel pen, although in grad school I used to go through dozens. Instead, it is a Lamy fountain pen. I have three: black, white, and red. I've had the red one since 2013. I probably picked up the habit before that doing ethnographic research in northern Colombia while writing field notes in small notebooks.

Sheila Lamb is a fiction writer; I'm not. But, like her, I like my pens. Her description of transcription as the first edit, and then restructuring and revising on a laptop match what I do. I've used Scrivener, but I prefer Tinderbox. I go back and forth from screen to the printed page often.

What I wrote out longhand might become an article on New Brunswick one day.

Today, I had meetings all day. In the moments I could find, I edited an article that has been under a revise and resubmit for far too long.

Writing on Schedule

Today's trick from Dorothea Brande to get back into writing: Schedule a time to write, and, come what may, make sure to be writing at that time. Today, I my time was 4:00 pm. I failed, because I took a nap instead. Later, at 6:00 I went to a coffee shop and did my quota for the day. The result? Starting was harder than usual, and I used a pencil and paper, but for the first time in a year, I have a draft of a conclusion. There is so much left to do: edit, revise, rewrite, read aloud, send to my copy editor, etc. But, even on busy day a little progress feels good.

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