And then, faster than we thought possible… – A letter from New Brunswick’s future #17

Written by Erin Seatter on September 26, 2019

Photo by Erin Seatter.

September 27, 2040 (Vancouver, British Colombia)

Dear friends and neighbours,

I was a fairly new mother, with a young child at home. I worried about the future, her future, but I was busy morning to evening taking care of her. We read children’s books together, every day. We went through ABC books about insects—ants, bumblebees, caterpillars—and about animals in Africa—aardvark, baboon, cheetah—and animals in Canada—auk, beaver, caribou. We read about a panda whose sneezes can knock down everyone around, about a brown bear that sees a red bird that sees a yellow duck looking at them, about a gorilla intent on escaping its cage to sleep in the zookeeper’s bed. We laughed at the pigs singing “la la la,” the turkey with a shoe absurdly perched on its head, the moose and the goose together having juice. All were happy, all were well.

Other families did the same. How many wondered which animals would die out in their child’s lifetime? How many worried they were teaching their children not so much about the wonders of the living world but an exhibit of soon-to-be dead artifacts? How many, as they smiled over the adorable polar bear cubs climbing a hill, considered the starvation facing real-world cubs as polar ice succumbed to the onslaught of global warming? 

We lived amid disconnection. We bought garments pieced together for pennies by women working without breaks in unventilated rooms overseas, sent microplastics into the oceans laundering synthetic fabrics, dined on meat brought to us through the cruelty of industrial animal production and slaughter, blocked human bodies escaping from places where our country had waged war and supported violent regimes. We couldn’t reconcile them with us; couldn’t see how we were all bound. 

Climate catastrophes sped up. Temperatures were rising, and in the slow boil, far-right politics followed. Trump, Duterte, Modi, Erdoğan, Netanyahu, Bolsonaro. At home we saw white supremacists calling themselves white nationalists calling themselves citizens concerned about cultural protection and mass immigration. As the environmental and political situation worsened, it was hard to see what it would take to snap us out of our complacence. 

I think it was the fires.

Year after year, the flames, the loss. The smoke carried through the skies, even to those who tried to ignore alarm after alarm. But in 2019, the Amazon was ablaze. The vast forest, the one we called the lungs of the planet, was choking, disintegrating, and Brazil’s fascist government tried so hard to do so little, intent on smoking Indigenous peoples out and burning down climate agreements.

But people were making connections—between the blazing rainforest and the disintegrating ice caps up north, between politics of hate and the environmental emergency, between the need for solutions and collective power. Remembering those who fought for us before we arrived, and those who would live with what we left behind, we rose up. People rose up. 

We put our bodies in the way of pipelines so that the possibility of more fires and hurricanes and floods could not course through them. We filled courtrooms with cases of civil disobedience, where everyday people explained there was no other choice—it was this or our future—and of children arguing they needed a world to live in. We made our banks, pension funds, universities, unions, and governments divest from corporations killing the world. We lay down in the streets and on runways, refused to go to school, and went on mass strikes. We made extinction our issue. We wanted other possibilities. 

Then we elected people’s governments. It just took a lot of hard-working, honest people, people like us, to take back our parties from timid centrists and shipwrecking neoliberals. With a wildly popular tax on the super-rich, we set about making society work for everyone. 

We rebuilt our cities and neighbourhoods and stitched them together with rail. We placed panels on our roofs to harvest the sun. Alberta led the way, fulfilling its aspiration of becoming an energy leader, not as its deposed fossil fuel royalty had expected, but by embracing its clean power potential. First Nations had to consent to projects on their land, or projects didn’t happen—they truly had the right to veto. But rarely did they exercise this power, for Alberta’s innovations in the field of energy meant the end of pipelines through their territories and poisons in their waters. Arctic policy shifted from Canadian claims to northern resources to justice for Inuit peoples, which meant preserving the north and traditional means of subsistence. As marine life began to flourish amid careful fisheries management, ocean protection, and climate control, the fishing sector on Canada’s east coast was revived. New Brunswick was the first province to shut down the aquaculture that had spread disease and death to wild fish populations. Domestic recycling plants were built, so we no longer had to ship our garbage to Asia and Africa; we could deal with all kinds of materials here, at home. 

Along the way, green jobs were created, and as more and more people had decent, reliable, unionized employment, we were able to reimagine our economies so that we might work less and spend more time with family and in pursuit of personal passions. We rediscovered community. 

Instead of allowing urban sprawl to eat up natural habitats and rich farmland, we nurtured smart city planning and density. We made wildlife corridors integral to transportation routes. Not only that, we realized that we were sharing a home with millions of other creatures, who had a right to space, to life, and we stayed out of their way. We called armistice on our war on the planet. 

And then, faster than we thought possible, border walls disintegrated instead of ice sheets. Forests rose instead of temperatures. Storms and fires subsided, as did hate. Soon, creatures that had been vanishing—Acadian flycatchers, blue whales, cranes—refilled the space we left for them.

Endangered ecosystems were changed, but they survived. As did we.

Yours,

Erin

Erin Seatter is an award-winning journalist who lives and writes in Vancouver.

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 is 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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