Green New Deal (GND) town halls have been happening in communities across Turtle Island and the Atlantic region (Wabanaki territory). The South Shore chapter worked with others to host one in Bridgewater NS last week, one happened in Gagetown NB, and this past Wednesday night the Kent County chapter hosted their own meeting to bring people together to discuss climate emergency action.
Kent County chapter members (l-r) Denise Melanson, Serge Robichaud, James Lane, Ann Pohl, Debbie Hopper.
Although not officially a GND town hall, themes coming out of the Kent County session will lead to further conversations on a local level and will feed into the Pact for a Green New Deal document. These themes were, according to Denise Melanson (one of the event organizers and contact person for the Kent County chapter of the Council):
- Finding positive and hopeful messages and actions: For example reminding the people of the sacredness of nature and the need to think about all the yet unborn generations as well as education and assistance in achieving green goals.
- Overcoming isolation: Educating, engaging and motivating local residents to take a position and actively work to achieve their goals that lead to solutions to the challenges that climate change brings.
- Thinking globally and acting locally: For example engaging local community governance systems to press the provincial and federal governments to provide coherent and adequate responses to the crisis of climate change, including climate emergency declarations.
- The importance of networking across the province: For example working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the New Brunswick Environmental Network (NBEN) to create a caucus to deal specifically with climate change, thus offering a space to plan and act collectively.
- Understanding and clarifying the differences in experience and the important roles of rural life and the differences in adaptations and mitigations that will be required for rural communities (transportation issues, for example).
Action items coming out of the Kent County meeting included:
- Implementation of strategies for building public awareness (like at the local national park over the summer, fairs, markets);
- Development of wording for an emergency declaration for local governments that will resonate with these rural communities (a working group was formed to address this);
- Pursue the establishment of a climate action caucus within the NBEN.
Many GND town halls are planned for other communities in the region, including Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax and St. John’s, but the importance of including rural perspectives in any final document by the Pact for a Green New Deal coalition will be key. Participants in these Atlantic town halls did not see public transit as a rural priority that would resonate with rural municipal governments and certainly not in areas where there isn’t a municipal government (parts of NB are covered by Local Service Districts - LSDs - an unincorporated form of local governance), though there was a recognition that it could be helpful for urban and marginalized populations.
Ultimately however, a Green New Deal will incorporate much more than just transportation issues, and the town halls happening now are intended to be an opportunity to contribute to the development of a shared vision for what a Green New Deal can look like in Canada.
There is momentum building around this, and given the overwhelming emotions shared by many who care about climate issues, people need to work towards positive change and a future we want. I hope that the Green New Deal can be that galvanizing point for many as we shift the tide towards a just transition and a sustainable planet, and that many of you participate in whatever capacity you can to ensure your perspective is included.