Green Canada

by Oriana Palusci (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 293 Pages


This book explores environmental issues in Canada employing an interdisciplinary approach. It adopts several reading frameworks, encompassing the fields of literature, ecocriticism, linguistics, tourism, social sciences, architecture and geography. It investigates the keyword ‘green’ from a multiplicity of perspectives, including the voice of Cree writer Louise B. Halfe/Sky Dancer. Thus, green should be seen as one of the main symbolic colours which define contemporary Canadian identity.
Its six sections address intertwined issues such as the preservation and annihilation of the green landscape, the re-rooting of indigenous worldviews, the impact of Italian rural traditions in urban Canada, the influence of contemporary literary landscapes, the language of green in tourism and linguistics. At the end of the volume, Margaret Atwood’s recent writings are considered as playing a crucial role in the new consciousness of green Canada.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction. Shades of Green: Exploring Environmental Issues in Canada
  • Preserving/Destroying Green
  • Green Territories in Action: New Management Processes and Forms in Canadian National Parks
  • Go North! Environment, Sovereignty and Resources in Canada (1968-1975)
  • Green, Black and Blue, or What is Canadian Architecture for Tomorrow?
  • Waste Zones and Muskoka Chairs: Global & Non-Global Approaches to Green Canada
  • River of Hell: Athabasca Tar Sands Narratives
  • Re-Rooting Indigenous Worldviews
  • Wétikowak
  • Le temps et l’espace dans l’imaginaire géographique des Autochtones du Canada
  • Speaking the Language of the Land: Jeannette Armstrong’s Green Poetree
  • Green Earth – the Wounded Healer
  • Italian Rural Traditions in Urban Canada
  • The Persistence of Rural Traditions among Montreal’s Italians
  • What Our (Grand)Parents Taught Us: Bridging the Rural and the Urban in (Italian) Canadian Writing
  • Contemporary Literary Landscapes
  • The Myth of Canada as a New Eden in Contemporary Writing
  • “A song stained with the stain of chlorophyll”: P.K. Page’s Poetics
  • Nature et culture dans l’œuvre de Robert Lalonde
  • Landscapes and Eidetic Visions in Alistair MacLeod’s Fiction
  • Green Dimensions. A Phenomenology of Green Spaces in Mavis Gallant’s Fiction
  • Languaging ‘Green’ in Tourism and Linguistics
  • Welcome to Canada – the Land of Green-speak
  • The ‘Green R-evolution’: A Brief Exploration through Lexical Change
  • Green Trade Names in Canada
  • Green Hypermodality: A Social Semiotic Multimodal Analysis of the ‘Green your house’ Webpage
  • Green Apocalypse
  • The Eco-Cognitive Dimension of Margaret Atwood’s Language of Green
  • Green Practices: Textual and Extratextual Environmentalism in The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  • The God’s Gardeners’ Green Diet: Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index

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Shades of Green:
Exploring Environmental Issues in Canada


“It’s not a matter of one tree after another, it’s all the trees together, aiding and abetting each other and weaving into one thing. A transformation, behind your back” (Munro 2009: 245). This is what Roy, the protagonist of Alice Munro’s short story “Wood”, realises after crawling in the bush on hands and knees like an animal towards his truck because he has fallen abruptly and sprained his ankle. In “Wood”, first published in 1980 and revised in 2009, the male protagonist, “an upholsterer and refinisher of furniture” turned into a semi-legal woodcutter, is obsessed with wood. However, his keen knowledge of the names of trees and of their intrinsic features has not resulted in the recognition of trees as a living entity. Roy walks self-confidently across the woods with his axe and chain-saw without perceiving any danger as he believes that nature is predictable and can be easily subdued. His failure proves him wrong. Nobody should give the Canadian bush for granted. “Wood” is an apt example of the recent turn in the Canadian literary imagination as it reveals the ever-growing environmental awareness and ecological involvement, but also the changing Canadian perception of the representation of the complex and intriguing relation between the human and the natural world.

Many years have passed since Northrop Frye’s The Bush Garden. Essays on the Canadian Imagination was published in 1971. In the last essay of his collection, the critic defined as a “garrison mentality” the attitude of the settlers surrounded by a vast and menacing natural setting, an attitude which would highly influence the country’s literary imagination. According to Frye, Canadian writers built metaphorical walls against the hostile outside world, because they were unable to find a form to express their experience of the inhospitable environment. Similarly, the fear of the vast irreconcilable natural world was taken up by Margaret Atwood in her “Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature” (1972).

In recent years, the US debate on ecocriticism, starting with the volume The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology (1996) edited ← 11 | 12 → by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, and works by Lawrence Buell (2001), Scott Slovic (1992), and others, has set up roots in Canada. The representation of nature and the environment has always been a pivotal concern of Canadian writers. Canada is the land of trees and woods, thus Canadian literature and culture cannot be read or appreciated without projecting a critical eye on environmental discursive practices. I am not implying that Canadian ecocritical discourse is a simple appendix, a mere mimicking of the radical theoretical stance born south of the 49th parallel, but that it has developed its own distinctive features, strongly connected to bioregional ecology, while at the same time tackling global environmental issues. A fine starting point is the anthology, Greening the Maple. Canadian Ecocriticism in Context, edited by Ella Soper and Nicholas Bradley (2013). It is a selection of some crucial essays on Canadian ecocriticism, such as Frye’s The Bush Garden, and Atwood’s Survival. On the other hand, single poetic texts had already been studied in Greenwor(l)ds. Ecocritical Readings of Canadian Women’s Poetry by Diana M.A. Relke (1999). Anyhow, the material under scrutiny in Green Canada is not intended as a homogeneous, coherent ecocritical stance, but as an investigation of the keyword “green” from a multiplicity of perspectives. The volume presents an interdisciplinary approach that moves between description and interpretation, between a broader critical awareness and focused ecocritical readings. It adopts several reading frameworks, encompassing the fields of literature, linguistics, tourism, social sciences, architecture and geography. Indeed, Green Canada may read as companion to two previous volumes in the Canadian Studies series, i.e., Canadian Environments (Thomsen and Hale 2005) and Literary Environments: Canada and the Old World (Olinder 2006). Since the majority of the participants of Green Canada are Italian, a reference should be made to Serenella Iovino, who in Italy has conjugated ecocriticism with survival, exemplifying her theoritical framework through Italian writers (2006).

Green Canada examines the keyword green in its multi-faceted culture-bound meanings. A first meaning of the keyword is related to the discovery/recovery of the vast prairies and rainforests, painted, for instance, by Emily Carr and other Canadian artists, as an alternative way of life to the one offered by the sprawling Canadian metropolis. In the recent exhibition “From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia” (Art Gallery of Ontario, April 11 – August 9, 2015), green and blue are explored visually by the painter born in Victoria, as she depicts natural landscapes evoking the texture of trees and leaves in their manifold shades of green. In contrast to the more famous Wordsworthian paintings of the Group of Seven, Emily Carr confers strong emotions to her trees, even through her celebration of the wooden Aboriginal totem ← 12 | 13 → poles (Palusci 2010). At the same time, recent critical surveys have pinpointed that primeval forests have been attacked and divested of their texture in Carr’s latest paintings.

A second strand linking the essays in the collection is the urban landscape itself, in which the development of green areas work as one of the main features in contemporary planning and aim at transforming an urban site into a more balanced ecosystem. “New City Landscape”, an exhibition which took place in the Architecture Room at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto (June 18-September 18, 2011), presented four remarkable projects on possible ways of greening the city. In the same exhibition, thanks to the installation “FloraShock: An Ecotopian Vision of the Future”, Jason Van Horne envisions a post-apocalyptic urban landscape with luxuriant plants devised not by humans but by a vindictive Mother Nature.

A third link between the miscellaneous papers is the analysis of the national environmental dimension and the introduction of some of the contradictory political and economic targets of XXIst-century Canada, as in the case of the devastating exploitation of the polluting tar sands in Alberta. It should be mentioned that the Green Party, born in 2008, has recently elected its first Green MP, and that the pursuit of a so-called “green policy” is largely shared by the majority of Canadian parties. For instance, Rachel Notley, the newly elected Premier of Alberta in May 2015 (leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party) has promised to scale down and regulate the greedy policy of the powerful oil companies.

The fourth topic, the Greening of Canada, is related to the Canadian myth of innocence (in opposition to the European tradition), which is sometimes, yet not always challenged by the cultural consciousness and political ruthlessness of the American neighbours. The re-evaluation of the indigenous past, which is relevant to Canada’s recent literature (from Ruby Wiebe’s fiction onwards), recalls images of an Edenic landscape, uncorrupted by European colonisation. Indeed the next instance to be dealt with in the volume is the colour green, with all its shades, as the colour of summer and of the stirring up of nature which characterises the abundance of cultures shaping the Canadian experience, especially through the indigenous peoples’ worldview.

In regard to the multiethnic and multicultural nature of the Canadian nation, the laws passed by the Federal Government to protect the environment become a topical subject of debate. Finally, the green connection with Italy is a thematic issue worth mentioning, as the largely peasant cultures of the Italian migrants have actively participated in the building of the Canadian urban landscape, especially in Toronto and in Montreal. Among the many contributions of the Italian migrants, who are now Canadian citizens, we can mention the Galleria Italia sculpture ← 13 | 14 → promenade in the newly restructured Art Gallery of Ontario conceived by architect Frank Gehry (2008), witnessing the achievement of immigrants in Toronto. Probably Emily Carr would have appreciated the opening exhibition at the Galleria Italia, which displayed Giuseppe Penone’s wooden installation structures, as the Italian artist – a representative of “Arte Povera” – lets natural objects, especially trees, tell their own story. Alice Munro’s short story “Wood” would have been an apt introduction, linking the two artists through the language of trees.

Thus, green should be seen as one of the symbolic colours which define Canadian identity. “Greenspeak” as the language of the environment may be analysed also according to findings in the field of linguistics and of tourism. The findings in this field illuminate the construction of a shared evolving lexicon which also resonates in the papers focusing on literary and cultural interpretations.

Green Canada is divided into six sections, addressing the aforementioned intertwined issues. “Preserving/Destroying Green” displays a dialogue among scholars from many academic disciplines such as geography, social sciences, economics, law, architecture, literature, tecnology and cultural studies. The papers focus on environmentalism and civic responsibility. The section opens with a survey of Canadian national parks and of their preservation by Dino Gavinelli, who reflects on how the environmental protection policies meet actions for the promotion of Parks Canada. Changing scenario, Elena Baldassarri provides an overview of the economic, political and ecological debate on sovereignity and resources in the Canadian Artic in the crucial timespan from 1968 until 1975. Contemporary green approaches in architecture are the topic of the following paper by Shelley Hornstein. She embarks upon an exploration of the issues of sameness in global architecture and tries to answer the question of whether “Canada offer[s] examples of green or sustainable architecture that are unique or reflective of our specific geographic place, cultural memory and national identity”. The following paper by Elena Lamberti takes us to “the fake lakeshore with Muskoka Chairs staged as the perfect Canadian scenario during the June 2010 G20 in downtown Toronto”. Lamberti analyses Janice Kulyk Keefer’s long poem The Waste Zone (2002) insisting on the role that literature can play in preserving green by situating the very idea of green in a broader context. The section on the anthitetical pair “Preserving/destroying Green” ends with Oriana Palusci’s diachronic cultural itinerary of the manifold representations of the Alberta tar sands from different scholarly fields and viewpoints, turning the spotlight on how a complex and vibrant ecosystem has been/is being relentlessly transformed into an apocalyptic wasteland.

“Re-Rooting Indigenous Worldviews” takes us to the next four papers, centred upon indigenous writers, which address land and nature according ← 14 | 15 → to principles of connectedness and harmony. Lorraine Mayer, a Métis scholar, narrates the ancient Cree stories on the cannibal spirit known as wétiko. Relating them to the infamous residential schools, she suggests how the retelling of the wétiko stories can lead to the restoration of native identity and responsibility towards the land. Angela Buono introduces Francophone indigenous writers, especially focusing on the novel La Saga des Béothuks (1996) by the Cree-Algonquin author Bernard Assiniwi and on the essay Pour une histoire amérindienne de l’Amérique (1999) by Georges E. Sioui, a First Nations historian of Wyandot-Huron descent. On the other hand, Anna Mongibello discusses the crucial link that connects land, memory, language and storytelling in the Okanagan worldview reclaimed by Jeannette Armstrong in both her essays and poems, showing how “the land of the Grandmothers” is transmuted into ‘poetree’. In order to have a direct testimony of an indigenous worldview, the words of Cree writer Louise B. Halfe – also known by her Cree-translated name Sky-Dancer – conclude this section. Halfe tells a story of the destruction and possible salvation of the land of her ancestors (Plains Cree), code-mixing and code-switching between English and Cree. She strongly reclaims the linguistic and spiritual/cultural practices of the Cree, which are vanishing.

“Italian Rural Traditions in Urban Canada” concentrates on how Italians adapted and renewed their own home traditions once in Canada. Bruno Ramirez insists on the persistence of agrarian practices by Italian migrants coming from a peasant society and settling in Montreal, especially after their massive arrival in the 1950s and 1960s. He underlines how rural traditions have also been maintained through religious ceremonies, such as the “Festa di Sant’Anna”, also known as the “Wheat festivity”, a community event enacted in Montreal, which has its roots in agrarian Molise. Further Italian ways of life that migrants brought with them to Canada, such as gardening, cooking, language, religion and family traditions are at the core of “What our (Grand)Parents Taught Us” by Licia Canton. She illustrates how the narrative stories by Italian-Canadian writers bridge a rural past to an urban present in the making.

“Contemporary Literary Landscapes” starts with Carla Comellini’s discussion about Canada as an edenic paradise, especially through the appraisal of the poems by Isabella Valancy Crawford and John Newlove, while Biancamaria Rizzardi concentrates on P.K. Pages’s poems. Rizzardi pinpoints how the poetess is interested in capturing the reciprocal relationship between writer and nature, going beyond a traditional man/nature opposition. A different perspective is given by Marina Zito in “Nature et culture dans l’œuvre de Robert Lalonde”, in which she describes the work of the prolific Quebec writer, who, in his novels uses nature as the departing point for a reflection on the condition of mankind. Francesca Romana Paci takes us from Quebec to the natural landscape of ← 15 | 16 → Cape Breton which is superbly depicted by Alistair MacLeod in his short stories. Paci argues that in MacLeod’s fiction, landscapes and eidetic visions of places play a central role, establishing complex connections between seeing, imaging and representing. In addition, Isabella Martini concentrates on Mavis Gallant’s short stories, exploring the meaning of the “patches of green” which emerge from the writer’s urban landscapes.

“Languaging ‘Green’ in Tourism and Linguistics” opens with tourist expert Graham Dann’s intriguing comparison between the register of Greenspeak in tourism promotion in Canada in pre-digital days and “Canada Travel”, the official national authority website, showing the passage from the monological discourse of the language of tourism to the dialogical challenge of the digital era. Rita Calabrese re-envisions the relation of language ecology and change through the syntactic and semantic reinterpretation of the word ‘green’ in Canadian English, addressing issues of language change. Moreover Mirko Casagranda studies the names of Canadian companies that include the lexeme green, assessing the qualities of the term. On the other hand, Sabrina Francesconi’s paper hypothesizes, drawing on a social semiotic approach of the webpage “Green your house”, an hypermodal discourse of ecology.

“Green Apocalypse”, the last section of the volume, includes three interpretations of Margaret Atwood’s eco-futuristic fictions of disaster. Environmental preoccupations have always been pivotal concerns in Atwood’s writings, yet her latest novels, set in dystopian scenarios, imply a strong warning against the choices being made in relation to environmental issues. Eleonora Sasso examines in detail Atwood’s language of green, especially in Oryx and Crake (2003) and in The Tent (2006) through the rich conceptual metaphors the writer employes in her narrative in order to awaken an ecological consciousness. Likewise, environmentalism and civic awareness are at the core of Nicola Leporini’s reading of The Year of the Flood (2009), structured upon the investigation of two strands of environmentalism: a textual level, based on the study of the survivors wording of the story of an ecological disaster, and an extratextual level, centred upon Atwood’s “green” international book tour. In the last paper of Green Canada Giuseppina Botta concentrates on the food education instilled by “God’s Gardeners” in The Year of the Flood, exploring the social, environmental and economic issues connected with Atwood’s claim for a sustainable nutrition.

Hence, the papers collected in Green Canada focus on ‘green’ issues of general interest but are especially centred upon the contemporary Canadian cultural debate from an interdisciplinary perspective that ranges from literature to linguistics and tourism. To speak of “Green Canada” in the new millennium implies a deep understanding of the discursive ← 16 | 17 → practices, related to its multicultural and multiethnic soul, and to its longstanding, although sometimes troubled relations with other countries, in primis the United States of America.

Green Canada includes many of the papers read during the international symposium Green Canada/Vert Canada/Verde Canada jointly held at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ and at the University of Salerno (7-10 September, 2011). The international symposium was promoted by IACS (Italian Association for Canadian Studies) and was partly funded by DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) through the Understanding Canada component of its International Academic Relations Program. Green Canada also aims at connecting the complexity of very different realities sharing historical links: Naples is in fact one of the main harbours from which Italian migrants embarked to Canada. Continuing the interdisciplinary tradition of IACS, an association which believes in bridging and nurturing different fields of knowledge, the international symposium, and its proceedings, bring together a number of disciplines aiming at translating and interpreting “Green Canada” from different critical and methodological standpoints. Participants are scholars coming from Canada (Canton, Halfe, Hornstein, Mayer, Ramirez), Great Britain (Dann) and especially from numerous Italian universities (Bologna, Cagliari, Calabria, Milano, Napoli ‘L’Orientale’, Pescara, Piemonte Orientale, Pisa, RomaTre, Trento and Salerno). My grateful thanks go to all the participants who made this book possible.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Toronto, House of Anansi, 1972.

Buell, Lawrence, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the United States and Beyond, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (September)
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 293 pp., 12 fig., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Oriana Palusci (Volume editor)

Oriana Palusci is full professor of English at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ (Italy). She has published extensively on a number of literary, linguistic and environmental topics related to English, American and Canadian Studies. She is the President of the Italian Association for Canadian Studies.


Title: Green Canada
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