“Water and air, the two essentials on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Protection of water sources highlighted the Kent County Council of Canadians’ annual Earth Day Art Show at the Anchor centre in Richibucto on April 21. Strong opposition to the spraying of glyphosate on provincial forests was also evident among those attending the art show. Glyphosate has been listed as probably carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency on Cancer Research.
The urgent need to protect water sources, coupled with concern about pollution in a variety of forms, was a dominant theme of the art work by students from Elsipogtog, Rexton, Harcourt, St-Louis-de-Kent, and Bass River, as well as work by some home-schooled students, and members of the St. Nicholas 4-H Club in Targettville.
Students expressed these concerns through a variety of media, from acrylic paintings and complex drawings by older students to clay sculptures made by younger children. Dioramas, paintings and other sculptures – some group creations and others individual efforts – showed sustainable communities in contrast to poisoned environments. It is clear from the hard work and creative effort students put into their artwork, many of which were accompanied by heartfelt poems or prose, that they are deeply concerned about the world they will inherit.
“The students may not know all the technical terms, such as ‘glyphosate,’ associated with environmental issues,” said Kachina Tuplin, the Health and Wellness teacher at Elsipogtog School. “For example, they are aware of the importance of organic food and the growing problem of unhealthy things in non-organic foods.”
“They write about these issues in school and do ‘hands on’ work,” she said. “Caring for and protecting water is something they relate to culturally.” That ‘hands on’ work may include things like recycling projects at school and working in the school garden.
Indian Island resident and Kent County Council of Canadians member, Denise Melanson, said the annual art show “highlights the work going on in schools to help students appreciate the natural world, and humanity’s place in it.” She said the Council is “helping governments understand the importance of protecting the environment,” and that a top priority of the Council is to stop the spraying of glyphosate on provincial land.
Melanson and the Council of Canadians are working to make glyphosate an issue in the September provincial election. She’s concerned that glyphosate contamination is now found in most foods, and in beverages like beer and wine. She is critical of attempts by both the federal and provincial governments to maintain the pretense that the deadly chemical can be used safely.
“Health Canada’s review of glyphosate was grossly inadequate,” Melanson said, “They ignored the most current research and accepted industry information at face value.” Recent revelations that data on the harmful effects of glyphosate was systematically and willfully suppressed by the industry for years has so far been ignored by government regulators.
Melanson’s concern and anger about glyphosate is shared by Bass River resident Vonnie Mann who also attended the art show. Mann is upset about the destruction of provincial forests by clearcutting, the spraying of glyphosate, and about recent suggestions that the province reconsider its ban on fracking.
“Glyphosate is insidious,” she said, “In New Brunswick we get a double-whammy because its sprayed both on forests and used extensively in agriculture, particularly with GMO crops like corn and canola.”
Mann terms the use of glyphosates on the forest as “nefarious,” noting that, “as well as destroying the forest, it destroys wildlife by wiping out habitat, and we’re losing plant and animal species at an alarming rate.”
“Corporations are just money-harvesting machines that go where they want and do whatever they want,” she says. “Corporations don’t have a conscience and they don’t care about the survival of the planet.”
Destruction of the forest also destroys future jobs, and Mann says governments are so “locked into” the corporate sector, that it is corporations that have all the power today. She says a big part of the solution to protecting the environment is for people to grow their own non-GMO, non-sprayed food locally, and educate people to protect their own neighborhoods.
“I was part of the resistance during the struggle to stop fracking,” Mann said, “It was a long, hard fight and I don’t want to go through it all again!” She says the shale gas struggle saw the government treating citizens like “hostiles” and sees the attitude of large corporations toward local people as “colonialism” in our time.
The awareness of corporate irresponsibility in the pursuit of profit was also evident in several pieces of art. One elementary student’s sculpture included the words, “The earth doesn’t belong to us; we belong to the earth.”
Francine Babineau from St-Louis-de-Kent is very concerned about protection of the environment. She sees water as a critical issue for the future of New Brunswick, and the world.
“We need to learn how better to use the land while keeping it healthy so it gives us food,” Babineau said. “I have springs on my land, and now I think ‘what’s upstream?’ when I use that water.”
Babineau is also upset about the destruction of forests by clearcutting and glyphosate spraying. She says government officials just don’t see all the “wasted wood’ from clearcuts, and wonders how they would feel about living in the midst of an area that’s been clearcut and sprayed.
“Sustainable forest management makes a lot more sense,” Babineau says. “But the government is just not listening, and forest corporations here just won’t take the time to be environmentally responsible. And we know just how dangerous glyphosate spraying is, but they won’t listen on that either.”
Angeline Forbes from Targettville works with young people as a 4-H leader and she also sees a growing awareness of the need for environmental stewardship among young people.
“The kids today are smart,” Forbes says, “and they are very aware of their surroundings.” She says the young people she works with in 4-H “know more and have common sense”
Forbes herself is keenly aware of the dangers of glyphosate because she lives on land adjacent to Crown land that is sprayed with the toxic chemical. She’s also worried about the fact that clearcutting causes more flooding, and likes to encourage her students to “take an active part” in looking after their own environment.
What role environmental issues issues like protecting water will play in this fall’s provincial election remains to be seen, but the annual Earth Day Art Show in Richibucto shows that students in the area are more attuned to public sentiment on the subject than are government policy makers.
Dallas McQuarrie writes for the NB Media Co-op from Mi’kmaq territory/Kent County.