Keeping Up With the Times

The impact of global warming can be seen already, as detailed in this profile of a Nobel Prize nominee. The article is mainly about Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s life, but it also touches briefly on what it’s like to live in the Arctic and deal with melting permafrost, falling through thin ice, and watching your entire way of life disappear from underneath your feet. She may not be as well known as Al Gore, but she is trying to raise awareness about global warming on a much more immediate basis, and perhaps save the world while preserving a way of life.

Maybe you don’t believe in global warming. That’s fine. But the fact is that global weather is changing, whether naturally or otherwise, and I think everyone can aknowledge this. I personally believe that the rate of climate change has been greatly accelerated by human activities, but even if I didn’t believe that, I would still believe that something is happening, because the evidence is all around us. The planet is getting warmer. The ice is melting. Whether or not we can do anything about it is another question…but I suspect that at this rate, the changes are only going to get more and more drastic.

I was thinking earlier this week about endangered animals, who are listed as at risk when their wild populations are no longer sustainable. Most endangered animals get that way through hunting and habitat destruction. With the range of habitable land for wild animals rapidly decreasing, we are facing a world without many iconic animals like bears, tigers, gorillas, and other neat creatures, which is kind of sad.

But what happens when a human population is endangered?

Obviously, as a species, we are going to survive…we don’t seem to have any trouble reproducing. But we are living a way of life that destroys a lot of indigenous cultures, and I find that rather disturbing. People who have established a way of life and lived it for thousands of years are seeing their lives change, radically, because of actions undertaken by others. Especially in the west, native cultures don’t seem to be valued, really, because we invest a lot of time and energy in converting them to the way of righteousness, apparently found in television, packaged food, and spending money.

How long will it be before we talk about indigenous culture in the past tense, and send our children to museums to study it, since there are no living examples? Will future historians write about this period with an air of nostalgia and sadness for the destruction we wrought, or use it as an example of how people can motivate themselves to save something important? I suppose only time will yield the answer to this question…time and people like Watt-Cloutier, who is fighting very hard to save something that may already be lost.