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Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North

Ali Thomas

17th February, 2011

In his fascinating account of the dialogue on climate change between Western and Inuit voices, Timothy B. Leduc argues that it’s time to start paying attention to the ecological wisdom of native peoples because it might just hold the key to halting global warming

With the last 11 years considered to be the warmest on record, the effects of climate change are making themselves felt. With this in mind, it falls to us to make even greater efforts to tackle climate change. Based on this premise, Leduc has taken on the almighty challenge of exploring the inter-connected concepts of climate, culture and change in relation to global warming, focusing in particular on the northern polar region.  Once a social worker engaging with indigenous communities of Northern Labrador and later an academic in the department of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, Leduc is perfectly place to explore these issues and Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North is his attempt to do so.

The book explores the grave impact that global warming is having upon the northern hemisphere and looks at the unique effect it is having on the indigenous Inuit culture that survives there. Inspired by Inuit philosopher, Jypeetee Arnatak, Leduc’s work documents a tantalising dialogue between Inuit and western voices and successfully engages with the many different views of polar warming. Accounts of the changing behaviour of wildlife and unrecognisable migration patterns, ice cap melting and extreme weather events, make it easy to empathise with the strains of global warming on the Inuit’s ability to survive.

Throughout Climate, Culture, Change, Leduc puts emphasis on the ways in which climate change is wreaking havoc on Inuit knowledge, with changing unpredictable ‘Sila’ [weather and climate] being largely responsible for the loss of the Inuit’s traditional knowledge. As the years pass and climatic instability increases, irreplaceable ancestral indigenous knowledge is being lost. This is Leduc’s central theme and he is passionate about telling us to look beyond science and listen; encouraging us to see the potential of Inuit culture as a tool for tackling climate change. In a call for science and culture to go hand in hand, he proposes integrating global cultural and religious views with science and politics. And what may seem a completely absurd at first, might actually just work. By listening to the Inuits, Leduc may have found a solution to improve our scientist’s work on global warming through learning more about the effects climate change has on people. Could this be key to improving today’s half-hearted responses to climate change? It's a start.

In understanding the Inuit’s religious and spiritual values of ‘Sila’ and ‘Sedan’ we gain an insight into Inuit perceptions of their place within nature. With this spiritual fear factor forever hanging in the balance, generations of Inuit have been taught respect for the environment; something that has been largely ignored by Western society. In taking a leaf from the Inuit’s book could we learn to love our planet and adopt such values? Leduc certainly hopes so.  With a stream of political invective running throughout, Leduc accuses Canada’s Conservative government of failing to meet emissions targets. Targeting Prime Minister Harper’s denial of climate change and ignorance of Inuit culture, he, says Leduc, is to blame for limiting Canadian climate research.

Aimed at an intelligent audience and complicated in places, Climate, Culture, Change wrestles with some complex issues. Highly informative and supported by thorough research, Leduc maintains a strong narrative throughout. At times a littile overwhelming, Leduc’s book helpfully structured into manageable bite-sized chapters. It’s not a relaxing read but without doubt, it’s got plenty to interest those concerned about the impact of climate change.

Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North by Timothy B. Leduc is available from Amazon

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