Inuit Experience Must Be Considered

(TORONTO) – A York University professor’s new book aims to integrate the Inuit experience of climate change with Western climate research, and includes an Inuktitut companion to the volume, making it accessible across cultures.

Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North, released this week by University of Ottawa Press, calls for a shift in the debate surrounding climate change.

“I wanted to move the discussion away from the debates we’re constantly hearing in the news – the validity of climate science and the economic validity of a response,” says author Timothy B. Leduc, Assistant Professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.

“There is today an abundance of scientific research and policy options to develop climate change responses, but I believe what we are lacking is a spirited sense of our situation and the willpower to make significant cultural change. This is what these dialogues with Inuit allowed me to consider,” he says.

“Much of the current debate focuses on how to continue extracting all the resources we can while limiting the harm to the environment. These storylines reflect our cultural tendency to economize. It’s not that economizing in itself is wrong – but it holds too much power. As soon as any scientific research, cultural understanding or religious worldview conflicts with this perspective, it becomes marginalized from the corridors of power,” says Leduc.

Accordingly, Leduc believes all parties concerned must be part of the discussion. With this in mind, he created an Inuktitut companion to the book that presents the central ideas of Climate, Culture, Change for the Inuit who have been instrumental to this project. It is available to download, free of charge.

“It’s important to note that I did not ‘give voice’ to Inuit, for their perspectives have been well represented in climate change research and policy circles by hunters, elders, groups like the Inuit Circumpolar Council and activists like Sheila Watt-Cloutier,” he says. “However, I feel this book has allowed me to open space for us to consider some alternative ways of thinking about climate change.”

Leduc notes that while it’s impossible to predict exactly how we’ll be affected in the future, the coinciding impact of climate shifts, environmental degradation and the end of oil will make that future significantly different than what we know today.

“Either we are proactive in envisioning a radical change of those cultural beliefs and practices that underlie our failed response to climate change, or we continue to deny our situation and thus lurch from crisis to crisis,” Leduc says. “Every step in that direction brings us closer to a future where we have less time and space to develop a humane, just and wise response,” he says.

Leduc holds a PhD in Environmental Studies from York, and has worked for a number of years in northern indigenous communities.

York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies is the first of its kind in Canada, and one of the first worldwide. It is one of the broadest interdisciplinary programs in the country, offering students an abundance of faculty interests and courses, allowing them to focus on a particular subject area while acquiring a breadth of knowledge.

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