ᓯᓚᑉ ᐊᑦᔭᕈᖅᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓ Inuit Perspectives on Climate Change
Report on Members of the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project1 at the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Durban, South Africa, November 30, - December 15, 2011
Inuit are on the front line when it comes to climate change. While it is estimated that the average increase in the surface temperature of the earth has now been slightly in excess of 0.6C degrees since the 1850s, average annual increases in arctic regions of the planet are already approaching 2.0 C degrees. This is a figure that scientists have used as a baseline, beyond which average earth temperatures cannot go without causing serious and irreparable harm to planetary ecosystems and the populations – human and other forms of life - that depend on them. We are clearly pushing our limits. Furthermore, the carbon with which we load the upper atmosphere and its effects cannot simply be turned off by dramatic action taken at some critical point. The effects of carbon are cumulative and long lasting, meaning that the time to act is now.
For Inuit youth attending the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as COP17, influencing international governments to follow through with steps to address climate change was seen as important to the future of Inuit youth and Inuit as a hunting culture, dependent on the integrity of land and sea ecosystems.
Supporting Inuit youth in attending an international event like COP17 was important to their personal development, to the development of knowledge and experience and their capacity to share this with other Inuit youth. The experienced was also important in educating others participating in the event about the concerns of Inuit youth and the Elders with whom they have been working.
Pre-UNFCCC, the team focused on building capacity with other Canadian, youth and Indigenous organizations attending the conference. In addition to support from the University of British Columbia, we formed partnerships with the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Canadian Youth Delegation, International Women’s Rights Project, Taking IT Global, the Nunavut Research Institute, Nunavut Arctic College, Rigolet Inuit film project, York University and Many Strong Voices. To raise awareness on the UBC campus, a presentation was held at the First Nations’ Longhouse and a Vancouver film event was promoted to UBC faculty and students. Information profiling the upcoming trip was made available online by the Faculty of Art’s website, UBC This Week, the UBC Longhouse, the School of Social Work and the Student Environment Centre. During the week leading up to the conference, key information and event dates were advertised through campus-wide digital signage.
Nationally, the journey to UNFCCC was promoted through a multi-geographical film festival. The festival featured prominent Inuit climate change films, including pieces by Inuit youth researchers, and was simultaneously held in Arviat, York University in Toronto and streamed nationally.
In the week before attending UNFCCC, the work of the Nanisiniq team was highlighted by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuk environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee during her internationally broadcasted lecture from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Inuit youth received congratulatory statements from Daniel Shewchuk, Nunavut Minister of Environment, Carolyn Bennett, former national Minister of Health and Mary Simon, National Inuit Leader and President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
In Southern Africa
The Nanisiniq team attending the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa included Inuit youth Jordan Konek and Curtis Kunuuaq, Frank Tester and April Dutheil. Arriving during the second week of negotiations, the Inuit youth hosted an eight-day interactive multi-media exhibit which illustrated the past, present and future implications of climate change on Inuit. Konek and Kunuuaq gave presentations at four events, including a press conference at the International Conference Centre. Half of the events were streamed internationally to an online audience and are also available on this website (www.Nanisiniq.tumblr.com).
The Nanisiniq team attended numerous side-events related to Arctic climate change, the daily-held Indigenous peoples’ caucus and daily briefings with the Canadian negotiators. The activities of Inuit youth at the UNFCCC were recorded with stills and video film. This material will be examined by Inuit youth and other team members in considering a documentary production that ties this experience to the ‘discovery’ Inuit youth have made of their culture and history.
At COP17, Indigenous youth and adult leaders from other countries were filmed and interviewed by Inuit youth. This footage is for a documentary film on Arctic mining – past and present experiences. While in Durban the Nanisiniq team updated the blogsite daily and wrote articles for Nunatsiaq News. These can be found on Nanisiniq’s website.
Inuit youth also met with over 100 youth from the Chatsworth Youth Centre. Chatsworth is a suburban township in South Durban, occupied primarily by the descendants of East Indian people brought to South Africa by the colonial British administration. This was an opportunity for East Indian and Inuit youth to share cultural practices and experiences, colonial histories and the implications of climate change for youth, internationally.
While in Durban, Inuit youth were interviewed, often twice per day, by the press and researchers. They appeared on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and national television coverage of COP17. Other articles appeared in South Africa’s Sunday Times (national print), the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, CBC News North, Yahoo News and Nunatsiaq News.
The final days of the negotiations were tense. Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent, announced that Canada would not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, representatives of the Canadian Youth Delegation were de-accredited for a protest they mounted to protest the Canadian position during the high-level segment of negotiations. International youth led an action which occupied the International Conference Centre while negotiations were in progress.
Canada received international attention for its position at the UNFCCC. This included winning the ‘Colossal Fossil of the Year Award’, a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ award given to the country who did the most during the conference to block development of transparent, legally-binding and robust international climate change policy. Jordan Konek received the ‘Colossal Fossil Award’ on behalf of Canada and Canada’s Indigenous peoples, who were of the opinion that the actions – or inaction – of the Canadian government poses a threat to their cultures and the environments that have sustained them.
Following the conference, the Nanisiniq team spent a few days in Lesotho, a traditional African state in the heart of South Africa. We visited and stayed with the Phelisanong Project, an indigenous grass-roots initiative which works with people who are disabled, orphaned and impacted by HIV and AIDS. Lesotho has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the continent of Africa. Inuit youth learned much about the realities of many African communities outside of South Africa and people living traditional lifestyles, similar to how Inuit lived prior to moving to settlements in the 1950s and 1960s.
A New Year: Continuing Inuit Climate Change Knowledge in Canada
Climate change is about values, beliefs and commitments to ideas about ‘growth’, ‘development’ and ‘progress’. Our industrial activities – our commitments to growth and progress - have led us to the point where many well-informed scientists and others, believe that we are placing the future or our own, and other species, at considerable risk. Climate change is rapidly emerging as the most challenging, important and critical issue in the world today. To build on our work in Durban, the Nanisiniq team will be developing two films: one which examines experiences with and the impact of mining on Inuit of the Canadian Arctic and a second production that documents the learning and experience of the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project. We are also moving toward initiating an educational campaign with the Nunavut Department of Education where Inuit youth attending the UNFCCC travel to Arctic schools to talk with other Inuit youth about their experience in Durban.
To report the results of the Durban Project, we will be presenting at academic research conferences throughout 2012, including the International Polar Year/ArcticNet Conference in Montreal in April and the Inuit Studies Conference in Washington, DC in October. Consideration is being given to setting up placements for social work students with the Phelisanong Project in Lesotho.
Acknowledging Sponsors and Friends of the Durban Project
We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the sponsors and friends of the Durban Project. This was a sub-project that grew from the excellent working relationship developed between the University of British Columbia and the Elders and youth of Arviat. Without additional funding and support, it would not have happened. Our sponsors and supporters were all acknowledged in materials posted to our website, in press releases, in public presentations and at the Nanisiniq exhibit at COP17.
Our considerable thanks! Mutna (in Inuktitut).
For more information please contact:
- Jordan Konek (student participant), Jordankonek_12@hotmail.com
- Curtis Konek (student participant), Curtis_kuunuaq@hotmail.com
- Tamar Mukyunik (Arviat Coordinator), firstname.lastname@example.org
- April Dutheil (Research Assistant), April.email@example.com
- Frank Tester (Principle Investigator), firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nanisiniq, Arviat History Project
School of Social Work, University of British Columbia
2080 West Mall, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z2
December 6, 2011- Durban South Africa. Jordan Konek (left) and Curtis Kunuuaq from Arviat Nunavut address the international media during their press conference on Inuit traditional knowledge and climate change at the United Nations COP17/CMP7. Photo credit- Frank Tester
December 4, 2011- Durban South Africa. The Nanisiniq team outside the Inuit Youth Delegation Exhibition. Left to right: Jordan Konek, April Dutheil, Curtis Kunuuaq and Frank Tester. Photo credit- Eva Modlinska.
December 7, 2011- Durban South Africa. Kunuuaq (left) and Konek meet the South African Press. Morning TV interview by South African Broadcasting Corporation. Photo credit- Frank Tester.
December 8, 2011- Durban South Africa. Inuit youth meet Chatsworth Youth. Photo credit- Frank Tester.
December 11, 2011- Lesotho. Jordan shows video footage to Lesotho child. Photo credit- Frank Tester.
December 11, 2011- Lesotho. Kunuuaq (left) and Konek march in HIV/AIDS awareness parade. Photo credit- Gary McNutt.
1 The Nanisiniq Arviat History Project is a joint undertaking of the Sivillinuut Elders Society of Arviat, Nunavut, and the School of Social Work, University of British Columbia with funding provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Partners, Supporters and Friends of Nanisiniq’s Durban Project