T o me, and to all Indigenous Peoples, and to all those affected by the harmful impacts of climate change, the issues I speak about are all connected — our rights as indigenous peoples are one and the same as our environmental and cultural rights. Indeed, everything is connected.
As one of the world’s most vulnerable regions, the Arctic is undergoing historic environmental and social change. For decades, the North and its peoples have been subjected to the most dramatic environmental effects of globalization. Most recently, climate change caused by greenhouse gases has left virtually no feature of our landscape or our way of life untouched, and now threatens our very culture.
The latest reports of climate change coming in from all of our communities are starker than ever. Virtually every community across the North is now struggling to cope with extreme coastal erosion, melting permafrost, and rapid, destructive runoff that threatens to erode away whole towns, especially in Alaska and the western part of our own country. Despite the recent particularly cold winter, our sea ice remains in rapid decline. Glacial melt long relied on for drinking water is now unpredictable, and invasive species travel much further north than ever before. While the size and type of each effect varies, the trends are consistent. Change is not just coming — it is already here.
These last decades, however, have seen more than just dramatic environmental change — they have also borne witness to a remarkable awakening of global environmental consciousness, a realization that we are all connected by a common atmosphere and shared oceans.
As Inuit we have been, and remain, a hunting people of the land, ice, and snow. The process of the hunt teaches our young people to be patient, courageous, bold under pressure, and reflective, and gives them a sense of identity and self worth. The international community has learned from our way of life as well. International agencies, national governments, civil society and the media have begun to see that the Inuit hunter, falling through the melting ice, is connected to the cars we drive, the policies we enact, and the disposable world we have created.