All in the Same Boat
A recent Arctic Leaders meeting in mid-December in Hay River, Northwest Territories, evidently left some of the local participants concerned that thousands of scientists involved with the International Polar Year (IPY) would soon be coming to study them in the aloof, superior "we're scientists and we're smart" way that historically and understandably has rubbed people the wrong way. According to an article on the CBC website,
The IPY, scheduled for March 2007 to March 2009, is expected to be the largest scientific polar research program ever. Dozens of nations around the world will spend billions sending 50,000 people to studying the land, water, atmosphere and life of the planet's poles.Good points. I'd be worried, too, if a bunch of "experts" (who usually seem to be white males with beards) from out of town came to study me and my neighbors in our native habitat and started asking questions and taking pictures.
(snip)Roy Fabian, the chief of the K'atlodeechee First Nation of Hay River, N.W.T., says it's more important to share traditional knowledge amongst families, than with international scientists. "I'm concerned about passing my traditional knowledge on to our children. So how is IPY going to help us in that process?" he asked.
But IPY is, among other things, a huge opportunity to break the ice, so to speak, to turn the tide (to mix metaphors) for all of us, no matter where we live or what our background. IPY is about water (frozen or not). It's about climate. It's about how, one way or another, everything is connected to everything. And it's about how in our lifetimes we'll all be dealing with subtle and profound changes relative to water resources, eco-systems, climate and the human systems that depend on them.
IPY can become a new, participatory form of collaboration and inquiry into our changing planet, a chance to learn and share and build strong communities together. And in fact there are plans to tap from the inside out the wisdom and experience of the local Arctic communities, who are already witnessing profound changes in their habitat, dealing with strange things happening with weather and seasonal changes, and have much to share with the rest of the world about their observations and experience.
Clearly not everyone at the Hay River meeting was skeptical of IPY.
But delegates like Brandon Kyikavichik, 20, of Old Crow, Yukon, says aboriginal people need to put aside their differences to work with other cultures and countries on international issues like climate change. "It's imperative that we work together on this because we're all in this together. We live together, we work together, we die together," he said.Indeed. Couldn't have said it better. We're all in the same boat....and we need to chip in together and rally around a truly worthy cause.
Photo "Coming Home" by the famous white, bearded male photographer Edward Curtis from the Library of Congress' Curtis Collection.