Who saved the world? Girls! – A letter from New Brunswick’s future #15

Written by Lauren R. Korn on September 13, 2019

In 2019, women’s experiences began to be considered in conversations about the climate crisis. Composite image created by Lauren R. Korn; original images: Adobe Stock.

September 13, 2030 (Fredericton, New Brunswick)

Dear friends and neighbours,

I hope this letter finds you well. Me, I’m settling back into life in Fredericton. I’ve been away, out West, and like most places I’ve called home, Fredericton seems to have both changed and stayed the same. Neon flowers that once flourished in front of Maritime bungalows are flourishing still, and the coastal humidity I once cursed still hangs in the air, tethering my body to itself.

Sticky skin aside, I’m writing to tell you that I recently accepted a position with the New Brunswick Centre for Women’s Health and the Environment (CWHE), a not-for-profit established in early 2020 that operates as an interdisciplinary learning and activist space for residents of all genders and identities, a space to consider the ways that physical and mental well-being are approached and understood in relationship to the province’s (and the world’s) natural spaces.

In the fall of 2019, shortly before the CWHE was established by a group of community partners (all of them women, including researcher Louise Comeau and then-MLA Megan Mitton), discourse surrounding the climate crisis had gained momentum. It was becoming apparent to most that in order to halt the rapid deterioration of the planet’s ecosystems, including our human place within them, women’s experiences of labour (read: the workforce), domesticity, family planning, contraception, the sustainability of “feminine care” and hygiene products, and accompanying mental health concerns needed to be at the fore of the conversation.

Membership of the CWHE includes researchers, politicians, mental and physical health professionals, economists, activists, filmmakers, poets and writers, permaculturists and farmers, small business owners, and others, all of whom work together to centre (and thus equalize) the narratives of women and femme-identifying persons, to provide residents with information about provincial services that can help them untangle what are, ultimately, extremely weighty life decisions: how they can best claim agency in their own lives without contributing to population growth, to the world’s changing climate, and to its associated social inequalities.

For instance, the CWHE worked with, and continues to work with, federal and provincial officials to champion what you know now as a Guaranteed Annual Income, which, since its inception, ensures that the previously unpaid labour of domesticity—like housework and child-rearing, done by women or not—no longer inherently upholds capitalism’s power structures but is given financial support to maintain healthy families and communities. CWHE members who took part in the GAI initiative are currently working to increase female representation in business and banking and are particularly interested in addressing the gender wage gap and pay equity, discrepancies that still pervade our provincial economy.

The CWHE has also partnered with schools in the province’s urban and rural areas to implement a feminist- and environment-focused sexual health education system; and the Centre works in tandem with provincial hospitals and clinics to provide timely and safe abortions, as well as contraception and access to mental health care both prior to and following every patient’s consult or procedure.

If you’re reading this and thinking it an extreme contrast to the New Brunswick of 2019, you’re absolutely right. 2019 saw attacks on reproductive rights across the province with funding restrictions on abortion services; Schedule 2 in provincial Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act, which limited abortions to hospital settings, was in direct violation of the Canada Health Act and made reproductive health services increasingly difficult to access, particularly for women and transgender patients in lower income brackets and outside city centres.

The Health Minister, who consistently remained both ignorant of and indignant to the provincial restriction, resigned from his position shortly before the CWHE took up residence in Fredericton, and the change has done this river community, and the province at large, a lot of good. When sexual health and reproductive rights were given the space and consideration they deserved, the physical and psychological well-being of New Brunswick’s entire population improved dramatically. Now, in 2030, a decade later, provincial clinics are thriving—and so are their patients.

I feel a particular, personal stake in this conversation, as a woman, yes, but as a woman of a certain age, thinking now about starting a family—whether to start a family—and what that decision means for the still-growing and warming planet. I feel, too, the freedom to choose, both with conviction and with empathy, just as I felt the freedom to choose prior to my first tenure in Fredericton. The mere fact of my body means that when I first moved to this sleepy New Brunswick town in the summer of 2017, learning about how my body would be received and treated in public spaces like doctors’ offices and waiting rooms became deeply important to me. And as someone who grasps tightly her relationship to the natural world, the decisions I make in relationship to my body’s place and production in it are equally important.

I am moving forward in my role at the CWHE with these stakes in mind, these freedoms and responsibilities. I move forward with the certainty that New Brunswick will continue to make educated and community-supported decisions for a healthy and sustainable future.

Yours, once again,

Lauren

Lauren R. Korn is an M.A. student of Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. She was a research assistant for the RAVEN 2019 Summer Institute.

In the optimistic spirit of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message from the Future, this letter is a speculative and fictional look back from the future to imagine what New Brunswick could be like if we could meet our climate change obligations. It is fiction, but it need not stay fiction. Each letter offers a vision of what New Brunswick could be like in the future if the province is able to fight climate change and to achieve the IPCC climate goals.

Read the other Letters from New Brunswick’s Future here.

This series is sponsored by RAVEN, and edited by Daniel Tubb and Abram Lutes. Daniel is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and a co-investigator with RAVEN. Abram Lutes was an environmental action reporter with the RAVEN project Summer Institute and a member of the NB Media Co-op Board of Directors. If you would like to contribute your own letter, read the Call for Letters from New Brunswick’s Future and send a short outline of your idea to Daniel Tubb at dtubb@unb.ca and Abram Lutes at abram.lutes@gmail.com.

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