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.

Read More

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.

Read More

2017, “Self Help for Writers.” Culture: The Newsletter for the Canadian Anthropology Society, 11.1.

Anthropologist, ethnographer, writer? What am I? I spent seven years as a grad student (two in coursework, two and a half in both fieldwork and writing) and two as a postdoc. Only lately have I begun to identify as a writer. When did this happen? In the morning, I think.

Read More

Read More

2017, “The para-state: an ethnography of Colombia’s death squads by Aldo Civico.” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 42:1, 121-123.

Nobody tells an ethnographer beginning fieldwork that when their work is published it will already be a part of history. Aldo Civico conducted interviews with the foot soldiers and leaders of paramilitary groups in Colombia between 2003 and 2008; the University of California Press published The Para-State: An Ethnography of Death Squads in Colombia in 2016. His book is a history of the recent past, when Colombian paramilitaries were at the apex of their power, their demobilization process with the central government was ongoing, and the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the guerrilla in Havana seemed fantastical. The Para-State treads a careful path through this labyrinthine history of death squads intertwined with the Colombian state and its elites. The result makes for excellent, if disturbing, reading. Excellent and disturbing precisely because Civico takes a path less traveled by observers of Colombia’s conflict. Civico builds on life histories as told by paramilitaries themselves; the focus is not the victim, but the victimizer: the paramilitary supporter, commander, and now dead-eyed young men dressed in new clothes and shiny sneakers who perpetrated killings, conducted massacres, and sowed terror in the name of order.

Read More

Read More

2017, “Unearthing Conflict: Corporate Mining, Activism, and Expertise in Peru by Fabiana Li.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

A specter haunts Latin America—the specter of mining. As multinational mining corporations have spread across the continent, their grasp has been tightest in the Peruvian Andes where they have sparked dozens of anti-mining protests. Fabiana Li, an anthropologist at the University of Manitoba, provides a timely study of mining conflicts in Peru in her new book Unearthing Conflict.

Read More

Read More

2016, “Notes on the diaspora, and other things.” Nokoko, 5, vii-xiii. (co-author with Wangui Kimari).

One of the pleasures of editing Nokoko is the breadth of submissions. One of the challenges is editing a special issue amidst such plenty, while remaining committed to publishing all cogent contributions. This issue brings together three articles for a special issue on the theme of the African diaspora conceived broadly: cutting edge work which addresses the Somali community in Toronto, the meta-physics of migration found in transnational African cinema, and the displacement of black communities in the Pacific northwest of Colombia. Bookending these are four articles, which demonstrate our breadth: a reading of oral poetry as text and a thick description of a festival as theatre, both from Nigeria; a critique of closed caption television and policing in Johannesburg; and, from a promising new scholar, a review of the colonial legacies which lead to the genocidal violence in Rwanda.

Read More

2016, “Getting on the Tenure Track.” Culture: The Newsletter for the Canadian Anthropology Society, 10.2.

Until June 2016, the plan was to move into my parents’ unfinished basement with my wife and our young son. It was a bad plan, for obvious reasons. But it was the only plan we had. I felt defeated by three years on the ‘academic job market’, and I was broke. A SSHRC postdoc in the US when the Canadian dollar fell to 68 cents had proven to be a financial disaster. I told myself that 2016 would be my last year looking for an academic job.

Read More

Read More

Muddy Decisions: Gold in the Chocó, Colombia

As gold prices rose between 2002 and 2012, Afro-descendant gold miners confronted illegal outsider-owned gold mines on their land in Colombia’s northwest Chocó department. This article examines why these Afro-descendant miners, who used hand tools and techniques, often invited the outsiders, who used heavy machinery and mercury, to work their mines. Their reasons included: familial pressure over land, profit sharing, high prices, access to gold, and dangerous working conditions. The decision to invite in the outsiders complicates the conventional narrative of a coercive relationship between outsiders and Afro-descendant communities, even as the relationship produced worse than expected outcomes for both sides.

Read More

Kimari, Wangui, Otiono, Nduka, Moorsom, Toby, Rutherford, Blair, and Tubb, Daniel. (2014). “Editorial Notes: Women’s rights and gender equality in Africa.” Nokoko, 4, 1-10.

This co-written Editorial introduces the fourth issue of Nokoko, which explores the themes, challenges, and opportunities in women’s rights and gender equality in Africa. The volume celebrates African women’s activism and struggles for their rights and social space to contribute to the continent’s development and democratization processes. Along with a supportive development community, women’s activism has resulted in notable progress in gender-responsive policy formulation, legislative reforms, and program and project design. The activism has also led to greater participation in political and decision-making processes throughout the continent. Still, widespread poverty, conflicts and wars, environmental degradation, drought, food insecurity, sexual violence, human trafficking, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic continue to disproportionately hurt rural women and the urban poor. The global financial crisis has exacerbated these problems. Moreover, African women themselves do not have a uniform outlook on gender relations, pa- triarchy, and ways to improve their situation. Although there has been a long-standing focus to “help women” by a wider-range of social forces in colonial and postcolonial Africa (e.g., missionaries, government officials, political parties, women’s groups, feminists, and international development agencies), such efforts sometimes cause grief and dislocation, rather than benefits for different groups of women.

Read More

Rojas, Cristina and Tubb, Daniel (2013). La Violencia in Colombia, through Stories of the Body. (Bulletin of Latin American Research, 32(1), 126–150.

This co-written article explores the pivotal period (1946–1953) in Colombian history when more than 200,000 mostly rural Colombians lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more were displaced. Based on a review of a variety of readings of La Violencia in Colombia, the article shows how stories of the body offer a useful lens through which to examine violence and the formation of citizenship at the dawn of modern Colombia. We document how cruelty was used as an object of public display and how terror became an instrument to control communities. From this, our article argues that instead of seeing individuals capable of self-regulation, Colombia’s elite saw a pueblo in need of physical and cultural improvement.

Read More