In Kautokeino, Norway, there’s a community centre at the northern end of town, at the top of half-kilometer climb. It’s snowing great big fat flakes outside. Inside there are a couple of hundred people from around the world attending a conference of the Arctic Council, Senior Arctic Official’s meeting (SAO). I know, I hate the acronyms too but there are so many groups here with huge multi-worded titles running five or six or seven long that (sigh) even I have to agree that alphabet soup works.
The topic climate change, a phrase that captures so many things that include global warming, how it’s affecting people already, the push to explore and exploit new energy sources, the impact on fish, the oceans, birds an other wildlife. Dammit, the whole enchilada. Climate Change.
The U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland Homerule – all are part of this. They make up the nation states within the Arctic Council. The Saami would argue with that last sentence and insist on inclusion as an Indigenous state, but a state nonetheless. Those nation states did slam the door and exclude the Indigenous peoples from the polar regions for decades until finally the created the Permanent Participants, or the Indigenous delegations. After all, how dumb was it to keep them out of discussions on Arctic issues when the majority of the Arctic populations (Indigenous peoples) were left out.
I love the feeling of the Indigenous groups that include the Aleut International Association (Alaska), the Arctic Athabaskan Council (NWT), the G’wichin Council (Yukon), Inuit Circumpolar Conference (Greenland, Canada, International), Saami Council (founder), RAIPON (Indigenous peoples in Russian Federation, founder), and the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) – the administrative arm for Indigenous representation at the Arctic Council.
More later…. just wanted to let you know about some of the things up here, where working groups are delivering papers and reports and basically shmoozing with each other and with government officials. The highlights so far?
Arctic warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world, partly due to the the large land masses in the northern polar region. If something isn’t done quickly, the rate of warming might increase but they don’t know by how much. The effects are being felt already. Greenland’s ice cap is melting and the breaking off of icebergs, more loss of the ice cap, is outpacing the amount of new snow and ice. The result, Greenland’s icecap is disappearing from its western and southern areas perhaps by as much as 20 per cent with 10 years. If worst cases come true within the next decade, the ocean levels might rise by a meter resulting in dramatic impacts on fisheries, birds species, human sustainability, and the disappearance of complete oceanic nations like the Maldives which at its highest point is just more than a meter higher than sea level.
Scary stuff. The guys here seem to know it. Their futures depend on it. They seem serious.