A sobering wake up check

Protecting ‘national sovereignty’ or the right to exploit? Harper in north for military exercise, Operation Nanook

August 20, 2009

The Toronto Star reports today, “In a display of bravado, boasts and a flexing of military might, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to stand up to nations that are already “probing” Canada’s North. Harper led the charge yesterday as he took the controls of a Sea King helicopter, took the helm of a submarine as it slipped below the waters of Frobisher Bay and promised that Canada would protect its northern interests.

“We must never forget that just as the eyes of southern Canadians gaze northward, so, too, do those beyond our borders,” Harper said yesterday during a visit to the frigate HMCS Toronto as it cruised the waters south of Iqaluit.

“With other countries probing our North – by sea and in the air – the work you are doing here to protect our sovereignty has never been more important,” Harper told sailors assembled on the ship’s bow.”

This recent display of bravado comes after months of renewed posturing among a number of countries eager to exploit the opportunities being created by melting northern sea lanes to access reserves of oil and gas. This follows the release of a report by the United States Geological Survey (July 2008) which estimated that the Arctic Circle has 90 billion barrels of “technically recoverable” oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Arctic Circle reserves are in waters where sovereignty is disputed among Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark.

As reported by Linda Diebel in the Toronto Star following the release of the report (July 24, 2008), “Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner for the Council of Canadians in Ottawa, emphasized the need for social and environmental impact assessment before “rushing into an energy gold rush.” She added her fear is that once developers know the extent of the resource reserves, the rush will be inevitable.

“It feeds into an already out-of-control industry with the concerns of the public and the environment secondary,” she said. Harden-Donahue said the current legal maneuvering to establish Arctic energy is occurring specifically because private industry is eager to exploit the fragile area, a developmental process being sped up by global warming.”"

Behind the thin veil of protecting sovereignty are a number of disturbing realities. Ice in the arctic circle is melting! This should not be prompting visions of riches and secure sources of energy but rather, be a cold, that we must transition to a low carbon economy, and fast. The lives of many Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik and Athabascan Indigenous Peoples of Alaska, United States and the Inuit of Canada are already being negatively impacted by global warming.

As highlighted in a submission by the International Indian Treaty Council and the Indigenous Environmental Network before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (March-April 2005), “The November 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), authorized by the ministers of foreign affairs to the Arctic Council, demonstrate that, for Inuit and other Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic-regions, climate change is very real. The Arctic Council is a body comprised of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The assessment report projects massive thinning and depletion of sea-ice, with the result that ice-inhabiting marine species of seals, walrus, and polar bear will be pushed to extinction by 2070-2090. Many Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik and Athabascan Indigenous Peoples of Alaska, United States and the Inuit of Canada and other regions of the Arctic-Circle are experiencing increasing difficulty in predicting weather and environmental conditions. Hunters have even perished by falling through the sea-ice when traveling to hunting territories across formerly safe areas.

Global warming is threatening the ability of Indigenous Peoples of the northern climates to survive as a hunting-based culture. Seals, whales, walrus, caribou, and other species provide highly nutritious food, and provide a deep cultural and spiritual connection with the natural environment.”

~ by Cory Morningstar on August 20, 2009.

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