New Brunswick and the whole of Atlantic Canada grew on the energy of the forests, the fish, the animal furs, the bountiful coastal estuaries and the rich alluvial soils. Settlers lived in the bounty of farming, ship building, forestry and fishing. They made the wealth of the land their wealth, and helped the building of the confederation.
One part of our story is of extraction and of sacrifice zones. A bounty that is not cared for cannot last forever. At this time, we feel the Atlantic salmon near their end, the cod fishery now a memory, the forests turned into tree farms and the family farms overgrown in alder brush. This picture of our past and present brings a lot of darkness; through a legacy of economic decline, of residential schools and of rural collapse. We feel weighed down by corporate capture and a fear of punishment for voicing descent. Hardship and destruction are part of the truth of who we are now. In any story though, to only focus only on one side limits our ability to see the larger truths.
We are not required to remain tangled in a past that keeps us from reaching our full potential. We are a beautiful mix of people; the Mi’kmaq, the Wolastoqey, Acadien, Anglo settlers and a global mix of émigrés. As such, we have the opportunity to write a collective new story. One of the best parts of our story has been that of New Brunswickers, as “lemonade makers.” No matter what sour mix is thrown at us, we find way to sweeten it up and carry on. Our sugar is our ingenuity, our fierce resolve to provide for family and community, our rich hospitality and our connection to the land that has sustained us so well.
We are strong and resilient. Our First Nations brothers and sisters are at the head of our environmental rallies and have a braveness that most of us could only hope to have. Our rural people pile wood for the elderly, grow their own gardens, repair their own vehicles and mill their own lumber. Our urban people build community gardens and food centers, find money to build social infrastructure and help promote our culture to the world. When disasters happen in New Brunswick, we are ready with our row boats, chainsaws, wood stoves and spring water. We open the hall, start making soup and get to it. This is also the truth about who we are.
Another truth about who we are is that we are story tellers. We are beholden to no one but ourselves to determine our future. At this time when climate change affects all aspects of our life, it is critical to our survival that we develop a shared vision for our future. My vision for the new, New Brunswick is the composition of a heritage of self-sufficiency, a relationship of service toward nature and the kind of social planning that allows us to re-gain collective authority. Our new way of living will see each of us as caretakers; living inside of the parameters of the systems that sustain our very existence. No job is more important than that.
In the new, New Brunswick we will scoff at the word sustainable and how backwards we were for thinking that we could cut down a forest, replace it with a tree plantation and have the audacity to call it reforestation. In this future, it will be our greatest honour to heal the damage that has been done to the land. Not all of us know it yet, but we are capable of giving so much more life than we take. Each generation is called to service in some way. This is our call. We need to push through fear and discomfort and decide our own future or it will be decided for us. I hope you are willing to help write our collective future for the new, New Brunswick.
Amy Floyd runs the Permaculture Atlantic Network, works with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and is deeply passionate about rural rights and earth/ community healing work.