Cultivating Hope for Rural Communities

Gregory Heming believes that rural communities in New Brunswick are perfectly positioned to cultivate a new economy, one that thrives by creating local business to meet local need. He will be visiting five New Brunswick communities between April 26 and 30, starting conversations intended to encourage communities to begin a shift toward an economy that is properly scaled for the place. He will be in Riverside-Albert on April 26, and Moncton and Sackville on April 27 (see full schedule details below). All sessions are open to the public.

“Our present economic model, which demands unlimited economic growth and consumption is prejudiced against the small,” says Heming. “It has an inherent industrial prejudice against anything rural. It works against family business, cooperative business and small-scale innovation.”

greg-heming-1341-loHeming is a municipal councillor for Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, and chair of the Economic Development Committee. He holds a PhD in ecology, and has been teaching, lecturing, counseling and writing about the principles of ecology and sustainable communities for 40 years. He says communities facing rapid climate change can improve their economic prosperity while transitioning to a post-carbon future with new ideas, tools and projects.

Born in the Colorado ranch country, he moved to Halifax to attend Dalhousie University in the 1970s and while there, fell in love with the Annapolis area. He returned there to live permanently in 2006.

During his career, Gregory has served alongside some of the most well-known names in social/environmental justice, including authors Paul Hawken, Terry Tempest Williams, and Wendell Berry.

Gregory himself is a committed ecologist. “I have a passion for wild places and rural areas, and I have seen them die slowly over the last 30-40 years,” he says. His own native Colorado wilderness has been devastated by extractive industry in recent years, so he knows all about the threats rural communities face from the exploitation of natural resources. But he believes sustainable forestry, farming and fishing economies are achievable.

He encourages rural communities to begin reviving their own economies by embracing ecological economics, which has at its heart, three pillars: sustainability, fair distribution of wealth, and efficient allocation of resources. All three of these contribute to human well-being and environmental sustainability, with growth that focuses on quality, rather than quantity; better instead of bigger.

Albert County is more than ready for a positive ‘take action’ message. Although the region has been hit hard of late, with the closing of the Service NB outlet due cutbacks, the loss of Hillsborough’s grocery store due to structural damage from snow load, and the threat of a school closure, we remain optimistic. “I believe Albert County is ready for change,” says Deborah Carr, who is a member of Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County, the organization sponsoring the Riverside-Albert event. “I see people taking heart, being positive, and looking to the future. Various local groups have already been working together, generating fabulous ideas and collaborative partnerships. This is grassroots community-building.”

carr-hillsboroughAlbert County has a thriving agricultural collaboration called Foods of the Fundy Valley, several farmers markets, Teledrive, which is a public transportation service, a new community events website, an innovative food bank program, and a recent proposal to use the threatened Riverside Consolidated School as a revenue-generating community hub. As well, economic and tourism groups are beginning to prepare for the completion of the Fundy Trail Parkway, which is expected to increase tourist traffic in the region.

“We want to create a new story, a new and vibrant narrative for our region, one that does not mean sacrificing our natural resources for economics, but maintains that balance in a sustainable, healthy manner that actually benefits those who live here,” says Carr.

This is why Wendy Keats of the Co-operative Enterprise Council of New Brunswick was delighted to have Heming speak in Moncton. “Rural New Brunswickers are committed to maintaining their communities and believe they CAN thrive,” she says. “Gregory Heming has knowledge and insight that can help us develop a collaborative strategy to revive our rural communities.”

“There is no end to what communities can do. It just depends on what the local community wants, their skill levels and their ability to invest,” says Heming.“But if you have a community of people working at the heart level, then the rest takes care of itself. People are there because they care…they are connected at the heart. That is a big beginning.”



 (Note: The presentation is titled Active Hope: A Future for Rural Communities. There is a $20 fee to attend the Moncton event and registration is through the CCEDN website link below; all other event locations are free, but donations will be gratefully accepted to help offset costs).

Sunday, April 26, 7PM at Forest Dale Home Community Room, Riverside-Albert; Sponsored by Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County

Monday, April 27, 9AM at Mapleton Lodge; Hosted by the Co-operative Enterprise Council of New Brunswick and the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDN).

Monday, April 27, 7PM at Royal Canadian Legion, 15 Lorne St, Sackville; Sponsored by Tantramar Alliance Against Hydraulic Fracturing

Tuesday, April 28, 7PM, NB Community College, Smith Street, Woodstock; Sponsored by Transition Town Woodstock

Wednesday, April 29, 7PM, Apohaqui Elementary School (Sussex/Hampton area);        Sponsored by Hampton Water First, the Green Party of New Brunswick and New Brunswick NDP