After Asbestos: The Campaign to Rename a Quebec Town

©. Greenpeace

Greenpeace wants you to vote on your favorite of its submissions, all inspired by local endangered species.

The town of Asbestos, Quebec, wants to change its name. It is tired of being associated with the carcinogenic mineral that, for many years, was mined right next to the town but is now banned in 60 countries. Now the mine is gone, shut down in 2012, and it left not only a mile-wide crater next to the town, but also a negative association that Mayor Hugues Grimard said has deterred other businesses from establishing themselves in the community.

So, from February 17 to March 20, 2019, the town accepted submissions from Canadians for ideas for a new name. Then the city councillors will make a shortlist from 500 submissions by March 27, and these will be voted on by local residents. Greenpeace Canada has jumped aboard the renaming project with enthusiasm, launching a campaign called After Asbestos to highlight its own interesting name suggestions and to serve as a much-needed distraction from the negative news cycle right now. Marie-Josée Béliveau, campaign manager, said,

"We're currently in a crisis. People are worried for their loved ones, their families and their friends and a lot of them feel isolated at home. We need a bit of collective hope and this project could represent a certain renewal, something people can rally behind from home. The City of Asbestos is facing a unique opportunity, the opportunity to redeem itself by become a beacon of biodiversity around the world."

Greenpeace has submitted six names to Asbestos' town council. All are inspired by endangered species that live in the Eastern Townships region where the town is located. The goal is to "turn a name synonymous with destruction into a symbol of biodiversity." These are the suggestions:

1. Bicknell: Inspired by the Grive de Bicknell (catharus bicknelli) a small bird that lives in the Eastern Townships and designated as vulnerable in Québec since 2009.

2. Lamproie: Inspired by the Lamproie du Nord (ichthyomyzon fossor), a small freshwater fish that lives in the Eastern Townships and designated as endangered since 2010.

3. Listère: Inspired by the Listère du Sud (neottia bifolia), a plant in the orchid family observed in the Eastern Townships and designated as endangered in Québec since 2010.

4. Blongios: Inspired by the Petit Blongios (ixobrychus exilis), a wading bird that lives in the Eastern Townships and designated as vulnerable since 2009.

5. Chevalier: Inspired by the Chevalier de rivière (moxostoma carinatum), a big fish that lives in the Eastern Townships fresh waters and designated as vulnerable in Québec since 2009.

6. Apalone: Inspired by the Spiny softshell turtle (apalone spinifera), a species observed in the Eastern Townships and designated as endangered in Québec since 2000.

animal names for town of Asbestos

© Greenpeace

The names must adhere to the requirements laid out on the town's website. These state that a new name must be dynamic and unifying; contribute to the city's development; represent the region, geography or history with no reference to the asbestos industry; secular and in the French language.

People can vote for their favorite here as a way of indicating to council which might be the most popular choice. It will be interesting to see what gets chosen – and Greenpeace is right that it's certainly a welcome distraction from everything else in the news these days. (You can also read Lloyd Alter's post on why he thinks the town should be renamed Le Chanvre, which is the French word for hemp.)