Novacadia Premiers in the Wall Street Journal

To-day the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Paul Starobin, Divided We Stand. The article deals with a hypothetical redrawing of the North American political map. Mention is made of Novacadia and it is identified on a pop-up map.

My sensation is one of awe and gratitude, as it was me who coined the term “Novacadia.”

On April 6, 2008 I placed a call to Thomas Naylor, founder of the Second Vermont Republic, and ran the idea past him. He had no problem with it. On April 8, 2008 I sent an email to Kirkpatrick Sale of The Middlebury Institute and Burt Cohen who had interviewed me for his Portside radio program in New Hampshire. The email reads verbatim:

 

Gentlemen:
 
Please see attached word doc. I discussed this shift with Thomas on the week-end. He had no problem with it. As I have had a few days to toss it around and put things to paper, I shall fax a copy of the attached word doc to him to-day. The spark for this shift came from a tactical disagreement I had with Jonathan Dean of the Atlantica Party several days ago, IMO, nothing more than a pretense to squeeze me out. Cutting bait with the AP is all for the better anyway. Now things will be out in the open on a very clean slate where I can push my own personal envelope…and a true secessionist agenda at the provincial level.
 
Kirk: Please make appropriate change from Atlantica Alliance to Novacadia Network on the Questionnaire for Registry which I sent to you yesterday. Nothing has been lost over the one-week lifespan of the AA. Hits to the site were minimal. For those who have visited, they will be re-directed to www.novacadia.org. The domain change will hopefully be in place by day’s end. You will note that I have also fired up a dedicated gmail account.
 
Burt: If you can somehow squeeze in a plug for the Novacadia Network site prior to Thursday’s broadcast that would be great and, again, nothing has been lost during the short lifespan of the AA. Actually, not having plugged it during the original broadcast now comes in as an asset.
 
I would appreciate your feedback on the rationale for making this shift. Thanks for your attention. Later.
 
Sebastian
 
 
The attached Word doc referenced to in the email reads as follows:

Political Mandate and Identity Shift to The Novacadia Independence Party, Rationale for

 

  1. Distance and differentiate from Atlantica Party
    1. The Atlantica Party is somewhat soft on Maritime Union (a political necessity prior to secession as a unified region)
    2. The Atlantica Party’s motive/premise for Maritime Union is to foster greater economic prosperity for the Maritimes
    3. The motive/premise for Maritime Union of the Novacadia Independence Party is diametrically opposed to Atlantica Party’s position, as it is politically misleading within the context of “owning” the economic and social consequences of Peak Oil and incorporating such into party constitution and policies
  2. Atlantica Party identified by the public with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), if valid or not does not matter
    1. In the public mind, AIMS is the front organization/think tank for a right wing, corporatist agenda
    2. The Atlantica Party’s constant denial that it is not affiliated with AIMS hardly negates the fact that it is one of the first questions asked of it
    3. Rightly or wrongly, the perception of affiliation exists
    4. Lastly, in spite of the Atlantica Party’s constant refutation of affiliation with AIMS, that it in fact may be a shill for AIMS is quite probable
    5. Although the “marketing baggage” for the Atlantica Party at this stage is minimal, it can only increase rather than decrease; it is barely out of the gate and having to deal with a serious political liability
  3. Rather than work with a hidden agenda within the Atlantica Party, take the secessionist initiative on the provincial level to the fore, i.e. the high ground, and position the secessionist initiative for the public to clearly see, contemplate, and decide to support or not (“no secrets” is a much stronger and more ethical tactic than “hidden agenda”)
  4. Will make for several interesting years on the Nova Scotia and Maritime political fringes (Novacadia Independence Party, Atlantica Party, Green Party)
    1. There’s certainly nothing wrong with some good old competition
    2. I am confident that, over time, support can  be weaned from both the Atlantica Party and the Greens
    3. If I did not believe that the Novacadia Independence Party will come out on top after several years of ideological street fighting, then I would not bother putting this initiative into the world
  5. Meet SVR halfway with its proposal for New Acadia; makes for a sincere and concrete diplomatic gesture that may hold great media appeal at the conference
  6. Novacadia, as an identity, speaks politically to both Scottish and French history and heritage in The Maritimes, ergo a hybrid identity incorporating Nova Scotia and Acadia
  7. Until such time as the Novacadia Independence Party is up and running, use the organizational tool of the Novacadia Network with which to promote, i.e. shift from Atlantica Alliance to Novacadia Network (tentative domain name change by my server has already been approved)
  8. As “peak oil and hard political action” will be one of the major themes of my presentation at the conference, the Novacadia Independence Party serves as a regional political entity and prototype for delegates to consider to further their own secessionist agendas
  9. With this initiative I cross a personal Rubicon, thus forcing me to own it fully and assume responsibility at the highest levels of my own political conduct

So in the span of 14 months the notion of Novacadia has gone from idea to the pages of the WSJ. The political designation of Novacadia was officially introduced at the Third North American Secession Convention last November in Manchester, New Hampshire via my paper and presentation, Post-Peak Oil and NAmerican Regional Secession. Since the convention, two blogs and a web site have been dedicated to the idea of Novacadia, plus a Facebook page has recently been launched. During the winter a probe went out to New England secessionists for a Novacadia conference in the spring. There was no interest. It seemed that focus was going towards creating the Switzerland of North America. Outreach in the Maritimes is ongoing, though slowly and carefully. A discussion on the role of the monarchy in Canada is here, after all, still legitimate political discourse.

It is for such reasons that I find it odd that, when quoted in the WSJ article, Kirkpatrick Sale would say that the idea of Novacadia, “did not actually evolve into very much.”

Hosting my position paper on the Middlebury Institute site might alleviate that, although that would compete with other secessionist interpretations. The guess is ventured that showing some courage and decency by the Vermont Commons editorial board against one stringent voice might alleviate that. Making the slightest of dents in one’s American exceptionalism might alleviate that. Pointing the writer of the WSJ article towards the founder of Novacadia might have alleviated it even more.

“Did not actually evolve into very much!” I mean honestly, what kind of a politically and diplomatically asinine comment is that to make by the self-anointed, go-to guy for the NAmerican secessionist movement?

 Paul Starobin, the writer of the article, states, “The Middlebury Institute, a group that studies and supports the general cause of separatism and secessionism in the U.S., has held three Secession Congresses since its founding in 2004.”

 I doubt if the term “Secession Congresses” dropped into Mr. Starobin’s mind out of the blue. It has already been pointed out that the Middlebury Institute went out of its way to bill its events as “conventions.” Now that concrete plans are underway to hold the inaugural meeting of the proposed North American Secessionist Congress in 2010, backtracking and a re-writing of history to make Joe Stalin proud is all in vain.

If it quacks like a thief, then odds are, it’s a thief.

Alas, contrary to Mr. Sales’ pedestrian and myopic secessionist agenda, the geographical designation of Novacadia is doing just fine, thanks very much, all things considered. We’re in the WSJ! It only took 14 months to get there! And no one, no one who has not earned it deserves any credit for it being there.

During times of intellectual revolution great and courageous perceptions and statements will occur, as will the small and petty. The onus falls on the pioneers who congregate around a movement to determine who makes which, from which motives, and towards which ends.

We make our beds, and then we get to sleep in them.

Novacadia Now: Secession-By-Default

(Note: This post was originally submitted to Vermont Commons for publication in the next hard-copy edition. The editorial angle and changes to the article which have been requested will likely warrant the preparation of what will amount to a new piece. As such, it can be posted as a stand-alone.)

Thomas Naylor of The Second Vermont Republic has outlined in a previous issue of Vermont Commons why secession is such a difficult sell. Although the marketing hurdles raised by Mr. Naylor warrant considerable reflection, it can be argued that secession, as a political philosophy and act, is a difficult sell because it is the wrong “widget” and/or “better mouse trap” that is being sold. It is even more so the case when at the preliminary stages of “missionary sales” with related brutal cold-calling. It also applies not only to the dynamics and logistics of secession, but also to its labeling and packaging. A product feature that frightens and/or alienates the “political consumer” is not about to generate any great political returns. It simply will not sell. Holding to a business analogy, the “secessionist business venture” stands to be bankrupt before it is even out of the gate.

It is put forward for consideration that secession is merely a symptom of a larger historical dynamic. In and of itself, secession is not a primary historical driver, one of the major fault lines of social and political transition. It is an element and reflection of the latter. To focus political strategy and tactics on a symptom, as opposed to focusing on the cause, is a mistake that will generate a plethora of self-defeating consequences.

That secession is not a driver in and of itself is the position taken by The Novacadia Alliance. In particular, it is argued that the primary social and political driver of our age is the collapse of industrial civilization, as is made starkly evident by the descent onto the Post-Peak Oil slope of reduced energy availability. This energy descent will transform our social, economic and political institutions inside out, the social institution of the large industrial nation-state inclusive. This message is neither alarmist nor negative. The message is deceivingly optimistic and sellable. It is: Be conscious and prepare, prepare, prepare!

By employing a re-adjusted (value-added?) premise for secession, the secessionist political initiative is transformed from a subjective grasp inside a philosophical vacuum to an historical inevitability with proximity to scientific certainty. Civilizations are born, they live, they die. Within a historical context, we deal with secession-by-default and adapt to such accordingly at local and regional levels. The fringe and marginal constituency currently supporting secession is reinforced by a beleaguered middle class searching for answers to a crumbling financial reality. Furthermore, the middle class is identified and targeted as the historically designated and legitimate social agent to carry secession to fruition. We shift from the finger painting of a limited rebellion to the canvass of a revolution in perception and crafting of political will.

Massive and cheap energy flow-through has been the direct source and collateral for the growth of the industrial nation-state, the growth of the American Empire inclusive. It stands to reason, from a thermodynamic and entropic interpretation of events, that maximum institutional and ecological disorder pushing against a closed system, i.e. the earth, will result in implosion and collapse. The large nation-state, as a redundant institution, will implode because it must implode. If a balloon is blown up to its maximum limit, it bursts, leaving behind shards of rubber. The analogy to large nation-state devolution and implosion is that simple. The actual parameters of the shards, i.e. determination and governance of negative entropy, will be open for human re-invention.

As such, an alternative “marketing strategy” for North American (NAmerican) secessionist initiatives might be along the lines of:

 

  1. The perception and acknowledgement that the immediate 100-year era of Post-Peak Oil is the actual secessionist “widget” that needs to be sold.
  2. The social and political benefits of secession are features inherent in the “product” of Post-Peak Oil acceptance, i.e. secession equals survival.
  3. Secessionist devolution and implosion on the NAmerican continent will follow along regional lines, as opposed to individual state/provincial secessions, the New England and Maritime designation of Novacadia inclusive.

It is likely that the third point nudges the VC reader onto new intellectual territory. The balance of this article deals with a preliminary introduction to the notion of Novacadia in particular, and to the merits of regional secession in general. It is a beginning, but a beginning happens to be the only place where one can make a start.

It is put forward for consideration that by the end of the current century the two nation states of America and Canada will be displaced by several regional and autonomous eco-states. This is the position that has been brought to the secessionist table by the Novacadia Alliance. Those secessionists who maintain that 48 independent nations, plus Canadian equivalents, on the NAmerican land mass is reasonable merely hamper and subconsciously sabotage the forging of a sound and marketable political analysis. It is imperative to address the issue of secession with a 2009 analytical microscope, complimented by systems theory and thermodynamics, as opposed to one that peers myopically and longingly out onto a romantic political landscape of either 1776 or 1865.

For secessionists the fundamental issue lies with the most proper, the most reasonable, and the most balanced size of the jurisdiction to be governed, primarily as relates to population size and only secondarily as relates to physical size. The most reasonable and most balanced size, in turn, translates into reasonable rights and liberties, reasonable safety and civic integrity for its citizens, and the reasonable functioning of a free market economic system with like financial infrastructure. This principle of reduced size is the bedrock of secessionist philosophy. Reduced size will be the consequence of nation-state implosion.

Novacadia is the region that consists of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the American states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Vermont retains its status as the secessionist flag ship within this bioregional distribution channel; it is the political nucleus attached to both the development of regional identity and the weakest link in the American federal state (complimenting Quebec in Canada). That Vermont is leading the secessionist charge in Novacadia is simple fact.

The secessionist designation of Novacadia borrows from the bioregional model. Within this model, a political designation based solely on geographical factors such as mountain ranges, watersheds, prairie land, rivers, etc. quickly becomes convoluted for practical political purposes. Although the evolution of events and political context over the last two decades have largely made bioregionalism (and attendant Green politics) as a concrete political tool redundant, it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water. From wherever it is possible to realistically borrow and most effectively aid secessionist goals surely does no harm.

The identification of Novacadia as a future autonomous eco-nation remains an element of conjecture. But all secessionists are currently constrained by conjecture. They tread on uncharted political territory. There is no secessionist crystal ball. There are no maps, no charts. Secessionists are pioneers; they are the mapmakers.

The combined population of the three Maritime provinces and the three New England states of Novacadia is approximately five million people. This is a reasonable population size for civic conduct and administration. More importantly, it is an optimum population size to house, feed and employ within greatly reduced economic parameters and expectations. Economic self-sufficiency will be at a premium. Within this regional population of five million, the three largest cities are Greater Halifax with a population of 370,000, Saint John at 122,000, and Manchester at 108,000.

The vast majority of Novacadia’s population is rural. With a pre-determined economic shift to a predominantly agrarian economy complimented by small-scale secondary industry in a Post-Peak Oil world, this is crucial. An agrarian economy, coupled with a small population and compact channels of distribution, makes the economic challenge of self-sufficiency that much easier to attain. Novacadia is novel in that political power already resides in the country, and not in the city. This is a political opportunity of extreme importance.

Novacadia is endowed with ocean coastline which directly implies a seafaring nation. The natural resources to support this industry are in place. A serious development of tidal energy, as opposed to corporate posturing, could make Novacadia energy self-sufficient. The shared coastline more than compensates for a rough, but useable, highway infrastructure. Upgraded and new rail lines would be welcome. Most importantly, the sea is a cultural tie. It is a common point of identity. This cultural tie highlights a bioregional social dynamic that a people “are of place.” A regional identity is innate; it evolves naturally. It does not have to be artificially hammered into minds beginning at kindergarten age and relentlessly reinforced with gaudy symbols and social spectacles for the duration of a lifetime.

In many ways, the economic possibilities for Novacadia are merely a return to the pre-industrial, pre-tariff economies of New England and The Maritimes when natural north-south trade relations existed. These economies were primarily agrarian and, due to seafaring capabilities, mercantile in nature and in practice.

As a region that has largely been bypassed by industrial development, Novacadians share a relatively undamaged natural environment and a shared history of hardships, of living within material means, and of a condescending arrogance displayed towards them by the “more developed” metropole.

In a Post-Peak Oil world, social and economic relations and institutions will be turned on their heads. What once was a liability becomes the richest of assets. Underdevelopment becomes an asset; a rural political base becomes an asset; traditional community ties become an asset; small population becomes as asset, and so on. There is almost a poetic justice, a long overdue karma of sorts, to identifying the Novacadian secessionist adventure on the very soil where European settlers first stepped to embark on continental expansionism.

It is imperative for Novacadians to acknowledge the historical conditions for secession as they exist in the present, conditions which were not created by secessionists and which quickly approach a crisis and, as such, call to be acted upon. To undo the institutional construct of the large industrial nation state, an artificial imposition that has been in place for two centuries, is no small task. It is the historical condition abetted by political synergies that will unravel the artificial identity of large-scale nationalism. Secessionists need merely to perceive the opportunities afforded by societal implosion and adapt accordingly. This is the unfolding of history; it need not be taken personally.

No one yet knows how the hybrid secessionist initiative of “radical right meeting radical left” will actually present and play itself out. However, the political hybrid slowly begins to come into focus. The future already exists; it’s just not here yet.

Most of the work to be undertaken over the next two decades will be to agitate and to educate, as the revolution that is proposed is largely a revolution of thought, a revolution of perception. As a people are “of place” a contemporary ownership of identity is more a matter of acceptance than it is a matter of needing to be crafted. Although covered by layers of a fawning and false patriotism, a regional identity already exists. This is easily verified by walking over to the nearest mirror and saying out loud, “I am an American. I am a Novacadian. I am a Vermonter.” Which statement feels right and carries the greatest challenge of responsibility within the context of global civilizational decay and collapse?

During times of crisis, one looks to one’s neighbors. This is as true on the regional level as it is at one’s immediate community level. The social motivators inherent in a Post-Peak Oil world will drive political intellects and imaginations towards perceptions that currently are barely imaginable. One could venture a reasonably safe guess that at this time the notion of Novacadia is yet such a perception. What requires building is the organized notion, the spark of political imagination with relative features and benefits.

As a simple woodworker, I can only conclude by saying that before it can be built it first has to be imagined. As for the actual marketing once it is built, that is simple: Build it and they will come.

These are early days. Welcome to the womb of political imagination.

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