It is with great sadness that the rabble.ca community mourns the loss of author and rabble contributor, Joyce Nelson, who passed away in hospital following an illness last week in Toronto.
Nelson was the author of seven books and many hundreds of articles and essays published by a variety of magazines and websites—including The Watershed Sentinel and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Over her more than 30 years as a full-time writer, Nelson’s work appeared in at least 25 book-length anthologies published in Canada and the United States. She also created 23 hours of radio documentaries for CBC Ideas, all re-broadcast by popular demand. A sought-after speaker, she lectured at locales as diverse as the Banff Centre for the Arts and Harvard University. Joyce taught at Queen’s University and the University of Victoria. She was also an artist and fiction writer, as can be gleaned on her website.
Nelson was a long-time and stellar contributor to rabble.ca—never more so than over the past year when she turned her attention to the climate emergency. Nelson exposed the dangerous liaisons between corporate interests and elements of the green economy, and Canada’s role in the world, in pieces on such diverse issues as Tech workers challenge the giants who employ them, Big Plastic’s trashy lawsuit, Canada’s ancient forests are being turned into toilet paper, and Sri Lanka shipping disaster and Canadian consumerism.
Nelson never shied away from human rights, challenging the media for its reporting on Gaza in a piece published last spring. However, the topics she focused on most were the environmental impact of military spending and the risk posed by nuclear reactors.
Her final piece, published in November 2021, addressed the terrible paradox of green energy transition, where she warned, “The metals and minerals needed to conduct this transition will result in a drastic increase in environmentally dirty mining. The global energy transition is perhaps more red than green after all.”
For many, Nelson is best known for her book Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism. Published in 2016, Beyond Banksters has been described by Gordon Laxer as “a hard-hitting, well-researched, fast-paced exposure of the usually hidden world of Canadian and international banks.” Joel Bakan described it as “a powerful and chilling investigation into an emerging global oligarchy of banks and corporations.”
The late journalist Ed Finn’s review perhaps best summarized Nelson’s style:
“Over the course of my 70-plus years as a journalist, I’ve reviewed hundreds of books, many of them informative and educational. But Joyce Nelson’s Beyond Banksters, which I’ve just finished reading, is not only the most enlightening book I’ve ever reviewed, but by far the most challenging. It’s not that it’s difficult to read. Far from it. Joyce is renowned for both the clarity of her prose and for her meticulous research, both of which are on display in this, her latest blockbuster. The challenge it poses to a prospective reviewer is that its succinct 164 pages are jam-packed with vital facts, figures, insights and revelations. So many that it’s impossible to adequately summarize it in a standard book review.”
We encourage everyone to read and share Joyce Nelson’s work. We know her wonderful writing and commentary will continue to be an important part of Canadian critical thinking and writing. Joyce will be greatly missed. Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community.