Scientists agree: Climate change is happening. Ten years ago, people weren't so sure, but if you're still using the sentiments from back then to form your opinions, get with the times.
This August, I had the privilege of being one of 60 young Canadians who gathered in Inuvik, NWT, for the Young Leaders Summit on Northern Climate Change. Inuvik is Canada's Northernmost community with enough in it to be called a “town”, and it's situated on the mighty Mackenzie River delta, just 100km from the Beaufort Sea. Small scrub-trees. Colourful buildings. Vast open landscapes. It's beautiful.
If you still doubt that climate change is happening, get with the times. Just ask an Inuit - they'll tell you a day's worth of stories. They'll tell you about the disappearance of multi-year ice, and the changing migration patterns of caribou herds. They'll tell you about heartbreaking deaths of friends whose snowmobiles fell through the ice. They fell through in April, when they were traditionally safe until June. Climate change affects traditional lifestyles.
The Inuvik Summit was an opportunity to bring Northerners together and connect them with other leaders from across Canada's South - Every territory and nearly every province was represented. It was a chance to meet new friends. Joe from Kugluktuk, Nunavut, won the limbo contest. Brendan from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, showed me a video of his band. Natalie from Lethbridge, Alberta, told me about the Metis prayer* she had tattooed on her arm. Each of these new friends had their own story of why they cared about climate change, and each was equally compelling. It's so much harder not to care after you know people. Unfortunately, many Canadians still haven't found a reason to care. Is it possible people just aren't looking hard enough?
If you believe climate change is simply about the temperature getting warmer, get with the times. Climate change brings more extreme weather and increases variability. Desserts get bigger. Storms get more powerful. Everything gets more unpredictable. While Canadians complained about a rainy summer, USA suffered its worst drought in 50 years. Actually, so did Argentina, China, Kenya, Australia, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Argentina's food production was down by 50%. Climate change is about food security.
Inuvik is an interesting town: The population of 3500 is a fairly good mix of Gwich'in, Inuit (Inuvialuit), Metis, and white people; it provides a good life for most of its people (though there are some problems); it's a mix of culture (though they don't always get along perfectly); and, thanks in part to its isolation, it has a very strong sense of community. Whatever comes their way, they can pull together and make it through.
If you believe climate change doesn't permeate every area of our lives, get with the times: It's about traditional lifestyles. It's about food security. It's about foreign policy, energy security, global economic systems, insect-borne diseases, water availability, and ecosystem resiliency. It's about how much your Nintendo Wii costs to ship from Japan. It's about the quality of human and animal life as we know it on this planet.
In a small way, Inuvik could represent the globe: The globe provides a good life for most of its people (though 1 in 5 live in extreme poverty – and the poor will be hit hardest); it's a mix of cultures (though cultures frequently fight wars with each other); and, it's conceivable that people will one day realize the isolation of our planet, and this may help bring about a stronger sense of global community. It will be a community that's capable of pulling together and dealing with the the toughest challenges. I believe that day will be very soon - its time has come.
This is about SO much more than “environmentalism.” Get with the times.
Joel in Inuvik, NWT, August 2009
Pictured here with the well-known Inuit statue, "Dudes in a Ring"
If you know the REAL name of this huddle sculpture, I'd love to know it.
September 30, 2009
Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism.
Founder & Editor of Skeptic Magazine
Joel Hilchey speaks and facilitates workshops across North America, empowering students, educators & business leaders who want to build stronger, more positive teams and communities. Contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
A Japanese city is where I was signed, for the world's climate policy should be aligned. The States signed on me but they ratified me not. Canada committed, but then said, "Actually, we don't have a shot." The targets were needed, they weren't set too high, but sadly our country says, "Let's not even try. 2012 is the year I'll expire - we'll have something new, (I hope success will be higher.) What am I?
Natalie, by the way, was one of the most well-spoken and thoughtful people I've ever met - the type of person who radiates wisdom. It was such a privilege spend time with her and so many others this summer.