The Baffin Island Expedition is complete, but the lessons learned and Inuit voices are just beginning to be reflected upon and shared. We have returned to Minnesota and to a new season – May in Minnesota is green and lush; lilacs bloom and spill over back yard fences; maples, elms and birches show off their brand new leaves. Up on Baffin Island it is spring too, with snow melting off the black rocks, ice opening up on the long rivers that run down from the interior, young seals learning to swim and polar bears mating.
The Arctic, though beautiful beyond words, is an unforgiving host. Those who wish to live and thrive there must learn to adapt as a means of survival. We came to listen to the voice of the Inuit people. Of course, as in any culture, there are a million voices each one with its own unique perspective on the world. Despite differing perspectives, however, we did hear common threads.
We heard over and over again, in each community, a concern for global warming and the changing Arctic environment. We heard much evidence of this change, of new species migrating north, of warming oceans and melting sea ice, and of the impact this has on the delicately balanced Arctic ecosystem.
We learned more about traditional Inuit culture, how intricately it has been woven into the land (and visa versa) over thousands of years. We also learned more about contemporary Inuit culture and how it is a blend of the old ways and of the new. We quickly saw how the family is the center of life and the source from which people gain strength. For an outsider it is hard to tell where one Inuit family ends and another begins. In the small communities families join together to hunt, socialize, celebrate and support each other in the face of hardship.
Most of all, we learned about the Inuit spirit of resiliency and adaptation. When we asked about Inuit cultural survival in the face of global warming, we heard the same reply time and time again: that the Inuit will continue to adapt as they always have. The question many Inuit asked us in return, can the rest of us adapt?
There are technologies and strategies available to slow global warming. All we need is enough willpower as a collective community of humans to make some changes. Part of what makes Inuit communities so strong is the unavoidable knowledge that they must work together to survive in a harsh environment and that, without roads out of their communities, the solutions to challenges must come from within. They realize that their survival depends on community and cooperation. They maintain their care and concern for community in spite of differences. This can be a model for the rest of us.
This vision of strong local communities working in harmony with local environments is a vision that could inspire us. A beautiful alternative to our current way of doing things could give us the motivation we need to make changes. A desirable goal could turn global warming from a depressing and overwhelming problem into an opportunity for collective action towards more beautiful, vibrant and diverse “local” communities.
The focus on community and connecting people is integral to our work, from expeditions to education and the way in which we go about slowing global warming. We believe that global warming will be slowed by people and organizations taking collective action. We believe that dramatic change in personal and societal responsibility requires perseverance, courage, tenacity — the qualities of a polar explorer. We believe that by connecting people to people, place to place, spirit to spirit, we can mobilize and act to make a difference.
We hope you continue to join us on online, where we will continue to share the credibility and power of the eyewitness voice from varying perspectives. We intend to share the stories of educators, students, individuals and business leaders who are taking local action to inspire and catalyze individual and collective leadership to achieve the changes we need.
We sincerely thank you for your interest and support and for following the Baffin Island Expedition. Please continue to visit www.globalwarming101.com to share your thoughts, discoveries and actions to slow global warming.
Climate change is a huge challenge, but together we can slow it. In the process, we can develop better communities and more fulfilling connections with the natural world. This is truly exciting.