A Fight For The Future In The Arctic Circle
Fossil fuels are a major contributor to climate change and much attention is focused on the damage caused by burning them. The damage associated with fossil fuel consumption is reaching an environmental tipping point; however, a part of the story often overlooked is how damaging the extraction of raw materials needed for the fuel manufacturing process can be.
This blog post begins with some thoughts about climate change that involve a struggle in the Arctic Circle. A video from Patagonia Films called “The Refuge” is a short documentary and provides insight into how the Gwich’in Nation, indigenous people living within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), are fighting to save their heritage and way of life while pitted against some of the largest multi-national corporations in the world. Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Chevron, BP, and others are lobbying Congress and investing millions to gain drilling rights for oil production within ANWR, which maintains a tenuous federal protection status. For generations the Gwich’in People have relied on the Porcupine Caribou herd as a primary source of food. One of the areas targeted for drilling is an area of land the herd instinctively returns to each year to give birth and replenish their population. The Gwich’in fear the intrusion of large-scale oil production into this calving ground and potential negative impact it will have on their ancestral food supply.
The video features two Gwich’in women who have been representing their people before Congress. A quote from the video that I often think of when I think of climate change involves one of the women, Bernadette Demientieff, as she talks about her children, her personal struggles, and her thoughts as she fights for her people in Washington.
When times get hard for me, I remember that I have a whole nation of people that are depending on me. And so giving up is not an option. I’d feel like I failed my people. And that’s the last thing I want to do...
...It’s not always easy, like, it scares me and I want to be able to tell my kids that I’ve done everything I could for them. I don’t want them to ask me later on down, [in] the years ahead, when the drastic changes start happening and they ask me, "Mom what did you do when you could have done something. Did you do anything?" I want to be able to say "yes."
Gwich’in Steering Committee
Gwich’in Nation (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
The responsibility for action and the accountability to others expressed by Ms. Demientieff strikes a profound resonance with me. She fights for her family and her people; however, her words can also be applied to climate change. I too feel responsible for action and accountable to others and I often wonder about the world that our children will inhabit after the time of this generation has gone.
2019 Climate Strikes
From September 20th to the 27th, activists in 185 countries – over 7.6 million people – skipped class, missed work, or otherwise interrupted their schedules and took to the streets to strike for climate action. In support of this global initiative, Good Bumblebee closed on both Friday, September 20th and Friday, September 27th and publicly encouraged personal involvement and action. On Friday, September 20th, I participated in a local climate strike held at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton.
It was refreshing to have a group of like-minded people spanning multiple generations come together in support of something that means so much to us. To be with them in person, in solidarity, created an energy that was invigorating and motivating. Some participants were angry, some scared, some hopeful – perhaps for many of us, all three of those feelings. Based on observation and brief conversations, I feel that those in attendance were real action takers. And that’s so important! We must continue to push for action. And change.
I loved that the Student Government Association was signing people up to vote onsite and learned that this was a big part of many events around the US. We have to vote OUT politicians who support, take money from, and cover up for Big Business that vastly contributes to the climate change problem. And we have to vote IN changemakers that believe in the Green New Deal and are truly committed to going all in to turn this thing around.
I want a healthy, stable planet for my children and their children (should they choose to have any given the current condition of the planet), including diverse and lush land habitats, thriving coral reefs and other ocean life, clean air for breathing, and manageable temperatures and weather events. Just like Ms. Demientieff mentioned previously, when my kids ask, “Mom what did you do when you could have done something. Did you do anything?” I also want to be able to say “yes.” After all, older generations’ predecessors left them a pretty awesome earth inheritance. Wouldn’t it be nice if one were left to the younger ones too?
In closing, I want to extend a hearty “shout out” to UNT student body president Yolian Ogbu for doing such an incredible job organizing and leading the UNT climate strike. Young, strong female leaders are such a treasure. I am not a natural public speaker, so when I see a young woman fearlessly stand up in front of a large group, command attention, and lead, I feel so proud it brings tears to my eyes. Here’s to more young women leaders! Great job, Yolian!!
- 350.org – Global Climate Strikes website (click here)
- Patagonia Films - "The Refuge" video (click here)
- Gwich’in Steering Committee - Our Arctic Refuge (click here)
- Gwich’in Social & Cultural Institute website (click here)
- We Are The Arctic website (click here)
- Trustees For Alaska - Gwich’in Nation resolves to protect Arctic Refuge (click here)
- Wikipedia - Gwich’in (click here)