Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Big Questions ...

Inuit Mother and Child in Kimmirut, Nunavut,
© 2007, Joan Z. Rough

We've been home two weeks now from our trip. It's quite amazing how fast the memories of this latest adventure are beginning to shift and become lost in the everydayness of being home. It was a life altering trip for me in many ways. None is more relevant than the realization of how miniscule I am in the general scheme of things and how inarticulate I feel about explaining it to you or even to myself. Every time I go away, I change in some way and when I return I feel smaller than I did the last time I ventured out and even more inarticulate.

What does it all add up to? A more expansive view of the universe perhaps and my own connection to it along with the belief that though we are but a drop in the vast ocean of matter, are we not also an integral part of the chaos that is the whole of life and effect what lies around us?

When I reread my journal of just a few weeks ago and remember the Inuit people I met and how they live in what many would consider a remote, life endangering wasteland, I am warmed again by their hospitality and the true welcome they showed to a boatload of crazy white people from the south. They indeed live in a land that is dangerous. Weather and wild animals can make fast work of grown men or children in below freezing temperatures and the bellies of polar bears. Wasteland, it is not, though to a southern eye used to the greenery of trees, shrubs and manicured lawns it seems so. But the land is indeed rich ... in beauty, wildlife and what lies hidden underneath the tundra and mountains ... oil, uranium, gold, diamonds.

Now that global warming has set in the ice is melting fast and the greedy of the world are lining up to cash in on yet another frontier. Already the old ways of Inuit culture are dying out. Today's modern day settlements can be rife with problems brought from the south, such as alcohol. The suicide rate is higher here in the Arctic than anywhere else. The ground is often littered with empty coke cans and the shredded remains of bags once filled with chips and other junk food.

With the warming of the world, the Northwest Passage is opening up for a while each summer and as time goes on and it gets even warmer, it could remain open for most of the year allowing resources to be mined more easily. The Russians have already gone beneath the polar ice and planted their flag beneath the North Pole to claim the undersea land and what is hidden beneath as theirs. Prime Minister Harper of Canada, is already planning on building defenses through the Northwest Passage, including the building of new battle ships to protect their rights from intruders. And the good old USA, is out there too. As Alaska belongs to us, we too may have rights to what lies beneath and are already exploring the lay of the land beneath the ice in hopes of proving that it is part of our own continental shelf and our heritage.

The geologists on board the ship, assured us that the earth would be treated with respect and that the Inuits would gain jobs and as much from the mining as the rest of the world. But I've seen too much in my soon to be 65 years, to believe that. These same geologists are hired by the mining companies to assess the goods beneath the earth. And it is the mining companies who do the environmental impact studies, not independent groups who have no interest in the money that will be lining the bottomless pockets of money hungry white people from the south.

I'm left feeling anger and mourning for the our planet and all of the people on it. What will we gain by stripping the earth of all of these resources? What are we gaining by paving the world with asphalt and concrete? What are we gaining by making war over natural resources? Is it really true, as I heard quoted on NPR yesterday that this is a capitalistic society and therefore if you have money you can do anything you want? This said by a man who is planning to move into a brownstone in New York City across the street from the location of an African American Drumming Circle that has been in place in the same neighborhood park for thirty years. But he says the drum circle is noisy and goes on every Saturday from 11 AM til late at night. And of course there are too many people who attend. He says they should leave and go somewhere else! Could it be that the people are mostly dark skinned and that is why this man complains? Could he not plan on moving somewhere else?

I pray that the geologists, the mining companies and our global governments wake up and that I am mistaken in my own ranting!

1 comment:

Star said...

Not having been to these places and seen them with my own eyes, I'm sure I cannot speak as passionately about these things as you can. But I do agree with all you've said--the smallness of each of us in relation to the world at large, the tawdry way we treat our earth and what is above and below it, and the resulting way we treat those who rightfully deserve to keep it in their care. Unfortunately, we have heard the promises too many times to believe for even a moment that the intentions of those staking claims are true and honorable.

As you have related here, it is sad to feel yourself losing firm grasp on feelings and impressions gained while traveling. Almost like a dream, the more we try to hold on to them, the further they seem to slip away when submerged in the surroundings of home. I'm glad you were able to bring back so many beautiful photos to help keep those memories clear.