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A rousing call to action

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img_01011Clive Tesar, Head of Communications for the Arctic Programme, attended the ‘2030 North’ conference in Ottawa, Canada. The challenge of the conference was to try to imagine what life in Canada’s North will be like in 2030, and to devise a plan to deal with that new reality.

By Clive Tesar

“We are a fortunate people,” begins Winona LaDuke. ”We have a shot at making a difference.” The indigenous writer, activist and economist knows about trying to make a difference, writes Clive Tesar. She was Ralph Nader’s choice for vice-president on the Green party ticket in two US elections.

Today at the Indigenous Peoples’ Summit, she gave a rousing call to action to the delegates, telling them that they must oppose “all new forms of insanity” such as the “Crack cocaine of oil sands”. She talked of peak oil, of the fact that globalization requires cheap oil and plentiful money, and now both are in short supply, so the world can expect many shocks, and must change its way of doing business.

For me, the most affecting part of her speech was her account of her work with a particular Indigenous community to help give people what they need for climate change resilience; a combination of the old and the new.

The “old” is a handful of corn seeds, seeds that were native to the area, but had been kept in a seed bank. This corn grows close to the ground, so it doesn’t get blown over by high winds. It doesn’t require much water, so it is resistant to drought. These conditions, increasing storms, and droughts, are both forecast to be consequences of climate change in American Midwest.

The “new” is a wind turbine – but as LaDuke pointed out, not brand new, but an older, refurbished one that had a simple assembly, so it could be erected and maintained by local people, “so you don’t have to get some guy from Denmark to fix it”. She pointed out that many indigenous communities are well situated to develop wind or solar energy, and to become energy self-sufficient, and perhaps also exporters of renewable energy.

She sees this twin strategy, of reclaiming and repatriating traditional food sources, and of developing appropriate technologies, as ways to make indigenous communities stronger, more self sufficient and more resilient to climate change impacts.

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