Wine & Book Group Pick for Jan-Feb 2016
It's winter - let's revel in that. Who better to read this January and February than Sheila Watts-Cloutier, the Inuit writer whose book The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet is a manifesto on climate change and its effect on the indigenous peoples of Canada's north. Cloutier is a compelling speaker. I've listened to her in the media and on several radio programs. This book will change the way you view the plight of peoples of the North. Sheila is a member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the non-governmental body representing the interests of Inuit people living in four Arctic nations. This led to her becoming a powerful advocate for Inuit rights at United Nations climate-change negotiations that garnered her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
But the details of her upbringing and the stark contrast between the experience of living at home in the North compared with living at a lower latitude with a non-indigenous family during her formative years, highlights the importance of cultural identity and traditions.
As Naomi Klein writes in the Mar 13th issue of The Globe and Mail:
As the title of the book suggests, a major theme of The Right to Be Cold is how climate change poses an existential threat to cultures that are embedded in ice and snow. If the ice disappears, or if it behaves radically differently, then cultural knowledge that has been passed on from one generation to the next loses its meaning. Young people are deprived of the lived experience on the ice that they need to become knowledge carriers, while the animals around which so many cultural practices revolve disappear. As Watt-Cloutier has been arguing for well over a decade now, that means that the failure of the world to act to reduce its emissions to prevent that outcome constitutes a grave human-rights violation.
While some may snicker and say more NK hyperbole, we all know that the arctic at both poles are the puffin/penguin in the tunnel, and haunting images of polar bears clinging to a slab of ice condemn us all. Awareness is the forerunner to action, and the time for rhetoric has passed. We each need to become part of the solution to solving our planet's climate change issues.
January 01, 2016