An “Eco-confluence” event on November 17 brought together more than 35 groups concerned with the well-being of the province, its citizens, and its environment, including Nature Trust NB, Voices for Sustainable Environments and Communities, and Peace NB. The groups are among the more than 100 members of the New Brunswick Environmental Network (NBEN) that hosted its annual meeting in New Maryland. The NBEN provides various platforms for its member groups to gather and cooperate on issues of common interest.
Jeff Carr, the new provincial Minister of Environment and Local Government, spoke at the November NBEN meeting, noting that the agenda included a discussion about: “When the government has the mandate but the NGOs have the capacity.” He invited NBEN Executive Director Raissa Marks to set up meetings with him and the different NBEN member groups soon to brief him on the key environmental issues they are working on.
An example of NBEN members gathered together with a common interest, Marks says, is the low-carbon economy caucus, for whom the NBEN organized a series of meetings to develop “common messaging that environmental groups and labour groups could both put forth to the political parties leading up to the election.” These meetings resulted in a letter signed by 23 labour and environmental groups sent to the five political parties of New Brunswick outlining a common directive toward a low-carbon economy.
NBEN staff member Annika Chiasson was recently profiled in a video produced by the NB Media Co-op and the project RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment). Chiasson described how NBEN facilitates communication among provincial environmental groups. The word “confluence” in the name of the annual meeting, illustrates what the NBEN does: they gather, facilitate, and encourage communication between the many environmental groups in New Brunswick, the government, and other sectors.
The NBEN also brings groups together to, for example, cooperate on increasing the amount of protected land in the province to align more closely with international goals, and on developing a new Crown Lands and Forests Act in New Brunswick. Both of these initiatives will have a strong effect on lands surrounding rural communities in New Brunswick.
Currently, New Brunswick has less than five percent of its land area protected, which is not on target with the international goal set out by the Convention on Biological Diversity for protection of lands. This target expects that at least 17 percent of land area and 10 percent of coastal and marine area is protected by the year 2020; Canada more generally has only approximately 10 percent of its land mass protected. The NBEN is helping support organizations such as the Nature Trust of NB, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Nature NB, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to campaign for more land protection in New Brunswick.
While the NBEN does not directly take positions on environmental issues in New Brunswick, their role is indispensable as a facilitator for other groups that do. As Marks describes, the NBEN plays a “very behind the scenes role,” not directly advocating but rather helping their member groups spread awareness on environmental issues in New Brunswick.
The NBEN also recognizes environmental leaders and the success of environmental campaigns through awards to individuals and groups. At their November event, three environmental awards were presented to New Brunswick citizens and groups to recognize their service to their communities.
Lois Corbett, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, was honoured with the Phoenix Award for “contributing her extensive expertise in communications, advocacy, and policy development to New Brunswick’s environmental movement, enabling us all to amplify our impact on local, provincial, and national environmental issues.”
The citizens’ group Save Wetlands Waters and Tourism was honoured with the Samaqan Award “for sounding the alarm about threats to coastal ecosystems and communities along the Northumberland Strait and for advocating for government transparency and accountability in addressing these threats.”
Chris Rouse, member of PEACE-NB, was honored with the Gaia Award for “his solutions-based environmentalism that has led to improvements in laws and regulations and, most recently, to detailed technical and economic modeling aimed at transitioning New Brunswick to a low-carbon economy.”
Jennifer Adam is a UNB Law student and volunteer with RAVEN – Rural Action and Voices for the Environment.