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Reviewed by:
  • More Powerful Together: Conversations with Climate Activists and Indigenous Land Defenders by Jen Gobby
  • Ken Atkinson
Jen Gobby, More Powerful Together: Conversations with Climate Activists and Indigenous Land Defenders (Black Point, NS: Fernwood Publishing 2020), 250 pp. Paper. $26. ISBN 978-1-7736-3226-1.

It has become a sad feature of many modern societies that civil disobedience in support of a 'just cause' leads to disruption, expense, and occasionally physical harm to the orderly running and business of that society. Canada has not been immune from this, with marches, protest camps, and more, against resource developments in the energy industries, pipeline construction, and chemical industries. This book is based on the author's own participation in such direct actions, which in turn have formed the basis for a PhD thesis.

It has not been uncommon for many decades for environmental writers to link environmental issues with political and sociological struggles. This book takes this to an extreme with its linking of climate change with the struggle for social justice for Indigenous peoples, and anti-capitalism. The phrase repeated many times is 'decarbonization, decentralization and decolonization'. In fact, nothing short of a dismantling and restructuring of the Canadian nation state is proposed! Capitalism is seen as the root cause of all ills, and there are references to the theories of left-wing writers from Karl Marx to David Harvey to substantiate this. A different view might have been found if the author had interviewed any Ukrainian families living in the prairies who had first-hand experience of life in the Soviet Union!

In addition to participation in direct action, the author reaches her conclusions from forty personal interviews and 36 online interviews. It is never made clear how the interviewees have been chosen, and hence how biased the cohort is. Only one, a 'settler', is from Saskatchewan, the province with the highest proportion of Indigenous people in its population in Canada, and there are none from the northern territories; in fact the book contains only two sentences on the northern territories where the Indigenous population is in a majority.

The book gives useful details of the various Indigenous protest movements recently or currently in action, and the central thesis, that colonial extractive capitalism is destroying both nature and Indigenous societies, is much repeated by the author and the interviewees. While repetition is not necessarily a drawback, here it develops a hectoring tone, and counter arguments are rarely considered. Canada has been at the forefront of many fine initiatives in the fields of nature conservation, sustainable development, and Indigenous empowerment, yet these are given little space here. Also, observers of extractive industries in communist societies report much worse environmental damage, for example seen in the oil, natural gas, and minerals exploitation in the Russian Arctic.

One motive for the author's dedicated support of protest movements was the anti-Indigenous racism experienced at the Montréal Climate March of September 2019. While this was deplorable, a bigger concern is how the proposed new decarbonised, decentralised and decolonised Canadian society will meet the basic needs of its people for food, shelter, clothing, and transport. We are given little information on this, apart from an appeal to improved relations and mutualism. Exactly how these will work in practice is never explained. [End Page 129]

Ken Atkinson


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