December 12, 2003

Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit

Well, since the RICO suit filed by 9/11 Ellen Mariani has fallen on deaf ears in the "US mainstream news media," I doubt the Inuits' compelling, poignant law suit will reach the air waves or the front pages either...But at least the best
newspaper in America, the UK Guardian, has given it appropriate coverage...

Guardian (UK): The Inuit people of Canada and Alaska
are launching a human rights case against the Bush
administration claiming they face extinction because
of global warming. By repudiating the Kyoto protocol
and refusing to cut US carbon dioxide emissions, which
make up 25% of the world's total, Washington is
violating their human rights, the Inuit claim.

Save the Environment, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1104241,00.html

Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit

Paul Brown in Milan
Thursday December 11, 2003
The Guardian

The Inuit people of Canada and Alaska are launching a
human rights case against the Bush administration
claiming they face extinction because of global
warming. By repudiating the Kyoto protocol and
refusing to cut US carbon dioxide emissions, which
make up 25% of the world's total, Washington is
violating their human rights, the Inuit claim.

For their campaign they are inviting the
Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights to visit the Arctic circle to see the
devastation being caused by global warming.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the chairwoman of the Inuit
Circumpolar Conference, which represents all 155,000
of her people inside the Arctic circle, said: "We want
to show that we are not powerless victims. These are
drastic times for our people and require drastic
measures."

The human rights case was announced at the climate
talks in Milan, Italy, where 140 countries are trying
to put the finishing touches to the Kyoto protocol,
the first international agreement to reduce greenhouse
gases. The backing of Russia, which is hesitating
about ratifying the agreement, is required to bring
the protocol into force. The US is trying to persuade
the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, not to sign the
protocol.

The Inuit have no voice at the conference, since they
are not a nation state, but Mrs Watt-Cloutier said:
"We are already bearing the brunt of climate change -
without our snow and ice our way of life goes. We have
lived in harmony with our surroundings for millennia,
but that is being taken away from us.

"People worry about the polar bear becoming extinct by
2070 because there will be no ice from which they can
hunt seals, but the Inuit face extinction for the same
reason and at the same time.

"This a David and Goliath story. Most people have lost
contact with the natural world. They even think global
warming has benefits, like wearing a T-shirt in
November, but we know the planet is melting and with
it our vibrant culture, our way of life. We are an
endangered species, too."

Mrs Watt-Cloutier comes from Pangirtung, north of
Iqaluit, in Canada. The entire area should already be
ice-bound, and winter hunting would normally have
begun, but in Frobisher Bay, the home of both polar
bears and Inuit, the water is still clear. "We now
have weeks of uncertainty about when the ice will
come," she said. "In the spring the ice melts not at
the end of June but weeks earlier. Sometimes the ice
is so thin hunters fall through.

"The ocean is too warm. Our elders, who instruct the
young on the ways of the winter and what to expect,
are at a loss. Last Christmas after the ice had formed
the temperature rose to 4C [39F] and it rained. We'd
never known it before."

Among the problems the Inuit face is permafrost
melting, which has destroyed the foundations of
houses, eroded the seashore and forced people to move
inland. Airport runways, roads and harbours are also
collapsing.

The Washington-based commission, which is the
Americas' equivalent of the European court of human
rights, will be asked to rule against the US
government but has no power to enforce any action.
However, the Inuit believe the publicity the case will
provide, particularly with hearings in Washington,
will embarrass George Bush's government and educate US
public opinion about the consequences of profligate
ways of living.

"Europeans understand this issue but in America the
public know little or nothing and politicians are in
denial," Mrs Watt-Cloutier said. "We are hunters and
we are trained to go for the heart. The heart of the
problem is in Washington."

She hoped that by winning the case Inuit would win a
voice at climate talks. "The Inuit people see me as
one of the leaders, with the same status as the
ministers here. As a nation we are badly affected by
climate change, but in these negotiations we have no
voice.

"We intend to get one so our representative can sit
round the table with other ministers and demand action
to save our people."

Arctic dwellers

Inuit means "the people" and is the generic name
given to indigenous people of the Arctic. Though the
word "eskimo", meaning "eaters of raw meat", is still
used to described Inuit, it is generally considered
derogatory.

Inuit populations include Canadian Inuit, Alaska's
Inupiat and Yupik people, and the Russian Yupik.

Inuit are descendants of the Thule people who
arrived in Alaska about AD500 and reached Canada in
1000. Alaskan Inuit now live mainly in the North Slope
boroughs and the Bering Straits region.

Inuit rely heavily on subsistence fishing and
hunting whales, walruses and seals.

The arrival of Europeans damaged the traditional
Inuit way of life and since the 1970s their leaders
have been campaigning for greater rights and asserting
their territorial claims.

In more recent times Inuit have banded together to
fight against environmental damage to their homelands.


Alan Power

Posted by richard at December 12, 2003 02:36 PM