Newly appointed: next disappointment? Canada names new environment minister

Yesterday the Canadian Government announced a new cabinet minister for the environment. The previous minister, Peter Kent, was recently eviscerated as quite possible Canada’s worst environment minister ever.

He certainly has presided over a precipitous fall. But the trend towards poor environmental regulations did not start with him. In fact, a 2010 article in Ecology Law Quarterly asks: What ever happened to Canadian environmental law? (PDF).

So, all this to say, the new minister is not inheriting a particularly envious portfolio.

The new minister is Leonna Aglukkaq the former minister of health and also the current chair of the Arctic  Council. When the latter post was assigned to her, researcher’s at McGill wrote an open letter stressing the need for an emphasis on food and housing security. Unfortunately, the tone so far set is one of development as a priority and everything else as a trickle-down effect.

A rising tide floats all boats, so they say. But it can also flood a lot of people out.

Anyhow, this emphasis on the North is all being set in a broader context of Arctic security, First Nations rights and a host of geopolitical issues regarding climate, sovereignty and the like. With that said, there is an interesting new article freely available on the the “New North” – a phrase that recurs often but which is laden with a set of assumptions about for whom the area should be governed and how. You can download it here (pdf).

And here is the abstract:

References to a “New North” have snowballed across popular media in the past 10 years. By invoking the phrase, scientists, policy analysts, journalists and others draw attention to the collision of global warming and global investment in the Arctic today and project a variety of futures for the region and the planet. While changes are apparent, the trope of a “New North” is not new. Discourses that appraised unfamiliar situations at the top of the world have recurred throughout the twentieth century. They have also accompanied attempts to cajole, conquer, civilize, consume, conserve and capitalize upon the far north. This article examines these politics of the “New North” by critically reading “New North” texts from the North American Arctic between 1910 and 2010. In each case, appeals to novelty drew from evaluations of the historical record and assessments of the Arctic’s shifting position in global affairs. “New North” authors pinpointed the ways science, state power, capital and technology trans- formed northern landscapes at different moments in time. They also licensed political and corporate influence in the region by delimiting the colonial legacies already apparent there. Given these tendencies, scholars need to approach the most recent iteration of the “New North” carefully without concealing or repeating the most troubling aspects of the Arctic’s past.

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