In this week’s edition, we have what will hopefully be the last story we run on the Trump administration’s efforts to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. After attempting to rush a deal through following the crushing defeat Donald Trump received at the polls, at the end of the day most of the lease sales went to the Alaskan government. Estimated revenue from the auction was less than one per cent of what was promised and the sales were frozen shortly after President Joe Biden took over.
As much of a failure this is to the Republicans, this is more a success of the Gwich’in, who have skilfully navigated the bureaucratic maze with such precision to be the envy of environmentalists and Indigenous land defenders everywhere.
Indeed, the Beaufort Delta is starting to become quite a hotbed of environmental activism. Between the ongoing efforts of the Gwich’in to preserve one of the last untouched paradises in the world and the equally vital efforts of the Inuvialuit to raise awareness of how climate change is altering the landscape — which was put on the world stage after a group of youth produced the documentary “Happening to Us” last year and showcased it at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Madrid.
As industries and governments continue to search for resources to fuel their agendas, the Beaufort Delta seems to be developing a vital resource of its own. The passion and ingenuity exhibited by youth in the area is not only dedicated — it clearly gets results.
Results many across the world so desperately need.
Canadian governments have numerous ongoing conflicts with First Nations trying to protect their land from harmful developments. Imagine if the knowledge and experience acquired in these aforementioned projects was put towards the plight of the Wet’suwet’en people fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline out of their sacred lands? Or pushing the government on boil water advisories? Or getting an action plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls?
Their skills could be of great help to Indigenous groups outside of Canada as well. For example, in South America Canadian mining companies are frequently in the news for their alleged involvement in human rights violations — just recently a head of security for a nickel mine in Guatemala pleaded guilty to the 2009 homicide of Adolfo Ich, a Maya Q’eqchi’ teacher and leader. At the time, the mine was owned by Toronto-based mining company Hudbay Minerals.
This is one of dozens of examples of attacks on Indigenous peoples around the world who are trying to protect what is most important to them. A passion for protecting the north could go a long way to help liberate other ways of life under attack.
If the Gwich’in can convince banks to refuse to fund oil and gas in the ANWR, surely they can convince them to keep their hands out of bloody conflicts elsewhere in the world. Particularly when Canadian money is involved. And if an Inuvialuit film can reach the ears of the U.N., they could draw the world’s attention almost anywhere.
Youth in the Beaufort Delta are already doing great things for the Earth — but with the right support and focus, they could be a game changer for the planet.