“It is a change of heart that’s needed, a change of direction,
an understanding in the bone that we must stop the desecration of our lands.” Marilyn Lerch
Last summer, during the protests in Kent County, newspaper articles most often expressed only the cynical and patronizing viewpoint of a stranger who walks through once and assumes he understands the whole story. The following letter to the editor was written by a frequent visitor to the Unity Camp in Rexton…one who lingered and listened to hear the Heartbeat of a new community finding its way and growing stronger.
These words from Marilyn Lerch of Sackville:
Something beautiful, inspiring and historic has been happening in our province this summer and fall of 2013. It has been coming to fruition for three years or more in people’s living rooms, in community halls in Berwick, Taymouth, St. Ignace, Bass River, Cornhill, Hillsborough and in the hearts and minds of countless thousands of our people. It is manifested on country roads like Routes 116 and 126 in Kent County in June, and is continuing to grow at the Unity Encampment near Rexton.
I am talking, of course, about the grassroots movement to ban shale gas mining. And, though that remains the central thrust of this movement, it has become so much more. If you come with me into the talking circle near Rexton with the night sky brilliant with stars you will see what I mean.
You will find common folks speaking from the heart. No jargon, no doublespeak, just stories like this one from a young mother:
My son is four years old and I saw him sitting by a tree the other day. He was talking to it. Then he stopped and listened. And then he spoke again. I want him to grow up in a world that honours trees like that.
A young First Nations man spoke about how he must change himself, become clean in mind, spirit and heart to carry on this struggle. There are few academics in the circle, but more and more students are coming. And they must return to the academies and teach what so many of their elders know but have not the courage to act on. There are no millionaires in the circle to my knowledge. And certainly few if any politicians have dared to come.
There are women who feel safer here than at home, men in beards and camouflage who know the land, young and old, people from all over the province and beyond, mixing, moving around in small circles sharing what they know.
We are Francophones, Anglophones, First Nations people talking together, laughing and planning together. I sit there for hours as the Talking Stick moves around the circle, as consensus is patiently found, woodsmoke in my hair and clothes, and I long for more writers, poets, thinkers, teachers, doctors, town councilors, to be there.
For if not now, when?
No injunction or show of force by the RCMP or cosmetic talks with the government can stop what is building in our province. This is not a threat. It is simply that finally, finally New Brunswickers are seeing what it has cost us to be manipulated by a few powerful entities that have left our democratic process in shameful shreds.
Our Mi’kmaq brothers and sisters at Elsipogtog are standing strong as protectors of the land. They do not want a job or revenue that comes at the price of poisoning land, water and air for their children. Who would want that? They are raising with powerful voices once again what their treaty rights have given them and what has been denied them for centuries. They are claiming anew what they have not ceded to anyone. And their rising up must be the rising up of all of us non-indigenous people.
It is not a change of government that is the answer. New Brunswickers are sick of revolving door politics. It is a change of heart that’s needed, a change of direction, an understanding in the bone that we must stop the desecration of our lands. Now. The digging, scraping, fracking, at any cost with profits for a few must be denounced, decried, and sane alternatives offered. Now.
We must all cry out for a ban on shale gas mining, but more than that, we must all become protectors of the ground on which we stand.
A powerful, inspiring beginning has been made.
Where do you stand? Ask yourself, then act.
This opportunity, if missed, may not come again for a very long time.