Kivalina: The Canary in the Mine (5 min Snippet)
A year ago, these 400 residents started a legal action against 24 oil, electricity and coal companies, including British Petroleum, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. In this test case they are accusing the companies of contributing to global warming and public nuisance, creating a false scientific debate about global warming in order to deceive the public. Kivalina’s legal battle is being compared to the fight that finally forced the tobacco companies to pay billions in damages. The growing clarity of the science and understanding of emissions are giving these cases a greater chance than they have had in the past, particularly because of the conspiracy charge against the oil companies. The same charge levelled against the tobacco companies, which was lulling people into a false sense of security.
The debate will also bring into focus the historial legacy and modern day reality of Inupiat Society. The only visual encounter most people have with the traditional life of ‘the Eskimo’ is Hollywood. The Studio image is one of fur-clad people living in constant blinding blizzards in a ceaeless quest for the caribou.
Traditional Alaskan Natives are often thought of as a common, nomadic culture that moved almost randomly with little more than hope to guide decisions about where to seek the next meal and where to set up the next shelter. A culture would not survive long in the Arctic, much less develop over several thousand years, if it were dependent on such random luck.
Rather the Inupiat cycle of life developed through a careful consideration of the environment. Among the main traditional foods were many kinds of fish and whale and a variety of roots, eggs, seeds and berries.
Such a cycle of life was, and is, dependent upon a people's careful observations of the environment and their dynamic response to changes and circumstances. Developing this cycle of life was critical to the continuance of traditional Inupiat society. Also critical was a system to share this knowledge and insight with the next generation.
The story of Kivalina could be all our stories.
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