Neet’sai Gwich’in, Arctic Village
Photo: Sarah James in Cancun. Photo copyright Brenda Norrell.
Listen to Sarah James, live from Cancun, where the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 16, is underway. Sarah James is here for the protection of the Gwich'in and caribou homelands.
"We are the Ones Who Have Everything to Lose"
Maybe there are too few of us to matter. Maybe people think Indians are not important enough to consider in making their energy decisions. But it’s my people who are threatened by this development. We are the ones who have everything to lose.
The oil companies keep saying that all their roads and pipelines aren’t going to bother the caribou. But we know the caribou. We know they don’t like all that stuff, especially when they are having their calves. We are concerned about all the salt and chemicals they put on their roads. It can drain onto the tundra, get into the water, and be unhealthy for the young caribou. A report from the Canadian government tells us that the caribou have already been disturbed around the oil fields. If we lose the caribou there will be no more forever." --Sarah James, Gwich'in Steering Committee
In Cancun, Sarah James shared these facts about how climate change impacts the Gwich'in:
--Petroleum development is a major contributor of greenhouse gases on Alaska's North Slope.
--Warming conditions in the North are three times the mean global estimate.
--The forage habitat of caribou is shrinking with increased forest fires and shifting tundra.
--Melting permafrost compounds climate change by further releasing additional CO2 and methane (greenhouse gases) into the air. This impacts migrating wildlife.
--Warming events have altered the route and time of migration for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and therefore impacted the subsistence lifestyle of Gwich'in Athabascans.
--Lakes and ponds are drying up as a result of warmer temperatures.
High level negotiations begin in Cancun