by Miles Howe
In 2009, the New Brunswick provincial government provided a licence to search over a million hectares of land to Texas-based Southwestern Energy for the purposes of natural gas extraction. For years, tens of thousands of New Brunswickers signed petitions, wrote letters, demonstrated and sought legal recourse against the deal — and the threat of hydraulic fracturing it brought with it — but the province responded only with diminished regulations and increased police presence. In the spring of 2013, Elsipogtog First Nation, the largest Indigenous community in New Brunswick, became the focal point of this resistance. Emboldened to its potential to make political change, and accompanied by unexpected settler and Indigenous allies, Elsipogtog First Nation employed new tactics in the effort to expel Southwestern Energy. And after months of blockades, which resulted in the destruction of company property and numerous arrests, the protestors were finally successful in forcing the gas giant to leave the province.
Written by journalist Miles Howe, who was embedded in the community from the beginning of the 2013 struggle, Debriefing Elsipogtog offers a riveting, firsthand, on-the-ground and behind-the-scenes account of this story. Through an examination of the political forces and motivations that led to one-seventh of New Brunswick being leased to the Texas-based company, the diminishment of regulatory oversight and a compromised Indigenous consultation process, Howe explores not only how people allied to build this movement but also how the state intervened to undermine resistance and willfully ignored inherent treaty rights and responsibilities.
The success of this grassroots movement in turning back the fifth-largest natural gas extraction company in North America is truly a testament to the power people hold when they join together to oppose capitalist exploitation and environmental destruction.
“With a probing eye, extensive research and thorough on-the-ground reporting, Miles Howe shares the remarkable events of the 2013 Elsipogtog uprising against fracking. Most inspiringly, he weaves into this story an exploration of the deep significance of Indigenous treaty rights and asks what it would mean for real solidarity to shape our relations with the land and with each other.”
— Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything
“Debriefing Elsipogtog is an intimate account of shale gas resistance on Mi’kmaq territory in 2013 that can only be told by someone who documented the moments of that historic struggle. Miles Howe’s coverage of shale gas opposition in New Brunswick’s Kent County not only told the stories of land defenders resisting shale gas, it exposed many uncomfortable truths that perpetuate colonial relations and environmental destruction. Howe’s book is a needed reflection of the movement from those within the movement and is useful to grassroots movements everywhere opposing extreme energy extraction.”
— Tracy Glynn, New Brunswick Media Co-op
“Miles Howe has a remarkable nose for a story and an enviable knack for being at the flashpoints of social change. His acute critical intelligence and his unwavering moral compass lead him unerringly to the heart of the events he chooses to cover. I don’t know who else could have told the story of the Elsipogtog confrontation both passionately and dispassionately, as an insider who also sees the events in a long historical context and simultaneously views them with a keen eye to the future. We’re lucky he was there; this is likely to be the only such book about this transformative moment in Maritime social history.”
— Silver Donald Cameron, author of A Million Futures