HCCReads: Right to be Cold Questions
We read. We listened, and now we ask.
Thanks to Cogeco YourTV for their support and our partners, Greening Sacred Spaces, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Milton Public Library, Halton Hills Public Library, Oakville Public Library, Halton District School Board Library, and Burlington Public Library.
With over 2,800 questions, we would like to thank you for participating. Our partners have selected 10 community questions, these questions are posted below. We’ve shared them with Ms. Watt-Cloutier, and we are excited to share her responses to the questions below.
Visit your local library to pick up your copy. The Right to Be Cold is a human story of resilience told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.
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Jane Fogal, Local and Regional Councillor
What is one piece of advice to successful engagement with members of government to see real action on climate change?
“One piece of advice to get your provincial government on your side would be to find someone from within to help get your voices heard.
Persistence is key to getting your voices/letters heard but it helps when you can find someone who is like-minded and sees these issues as urgent to champion your issues from within the Government.”
As you mentioned in the book, seeing the Inuk reality motivated me to take real action; so why aren’t more scientists, and environmentalists in general, mentioning this issue in environmental discussions worldwide?
Many scientists speak about issues they research and study. In other words what they know best. So the human aspect of the issues gets sidelined or omitted in most events around the world. Which is why most of my life’s work has been to show the human side to the issues. It is also important that as Indigenous peoples we tell our own stories. It doesn’t mean to say we can’t find equal champions for our causes as it is in partnerships that we can move things forward in a stronger way. Great question!
What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to make a difference but feels like they are being silenced by others?
That is the test of time, isn’t it? The answer lies in the challenge. If anyone is trying to silence you with your convictions then it is time to pay attention to how you are reacting to this. To continue to assert your causes and ensure you move towards developing your character skills of persistence, tenacity, and confidence. In other words continue to raise your voice even in the face of someone trying to silence you. Don’t give up!
What are your main challenges in explaining why the Northern cold is beneficial to the rest of earth to other people? What part do they mostly not understand?
Most people haven’t heard, much less fully understand or embrace that the cold, the Ice, and Snow are life-giving to our way of life. It is hard to grasp that the Cold and ice can be a life force for us. When they hear how our connection to the cold is a holistic teacher for us in terms of building our youth the character and life skills along with teaching them to be natural conservationists and proficient providers of good food for their families, they get it. Once people hear these stories or explanations in those terms, it helps them to better understand Inuit culture, Indigenous culture.
What can I do in order to be taken seriously and to begin to help the Climate Change crisis, starting in my community?
First being sensitive is a good thing! As young people these important issues of climate change are about your future. It has been shown of late that youth movements are becoming stronger and stronger and more impactful in moving these issues forward. Don’t get discouraged as you will come across many obstacles as you become the change agents in protection of our planet. Focus on your goals not the roadblocks as there will be many as you read in my book. Carry on!
What do you wish to express to the next generation of environmental advocates in regards to this subject, and what do you wish to see in the future of environmental activism from Southerners?
As I write in the book, the misguided emotional stances of animal rights people as well as well intended conservationists of southerners, without fully knowing the full picture of Inuit life, have ended up bring more challenges to our communities. So the way to go in my experience is to work directly with our communities to better see and understand the whole picture. How your actions can have for our well being, our culture, our economies etc. We aren’t asking for the missionary approach to saving us as this is at the root of many of the problems we face. What we want is to work in equal partnership with those who understand us.
It can’t be a one up one down approach and the only way to really understand each other about our common humanity is to communicate and work with those who are most impacted. What we see on the surface from a distance is not always what it is real at the community level. So listen and learn and build relationships from a base and space of respect. Another great question!
What do you mean by that statement because it sounds like you feel the youth can change the world? How long do you think it would take us to make a real difference related to your quote below? “The future of Inuit is the future of the rest of the world—our home is a barometer for what is happening to our entire planet,”
I quoted Tim Flannery one of the great climatologists in the world when asked on a panel I was on with him in New Zealand. He was asked ‘what is it about us in the world, that is not taking climate change action as urgently as we need to? When the science is so strong. His answer was “Imagination” is lacking…Imagine we can do things differently, Imagine we can build our economies differently, Imagine we can innovate differently…..
What I took from Tim’s words is that Imagination is not just dreaming up things but imagination can lead to concrete action. New ideas and ways can be built from Imagination. I think youth are well placed to start to Imagine a new world that will be sustainable for their children and future generations. It can take time as all change and work happens at the speed of trust. So it is time to start to build new relationships with Indigenous peoples, imagine new ways forward however long that will take….the Movement from all the youth must start now…So as a start let’s reimagine a new way that Re -aligns economic values with the Indigenous world. Values base on fairness, respect for the planet, respect or our lands, waters and air….and for each other.
Are there any systems in place you believe to be working against environmental and social progress that have yet to receive attention?
I hope I understood your question as the sound was not clear on your system. Let’s try to see if I got it right. I think there has been in past many skeptics who got way too muchmedia attention and sound bites with how they see climate change as a hoax or not real. Or that they see it as benefit rather then an environmental disaster. Or that our economy will be hurt by our actions in addressing climate change. We now know it is our inaction that is harming our economies and our livelihoods.
I have been at this work now for over 20 years and in the beginning there were a lot of theses voices and excuses, but now we see the in-action in addressing climate change is creating havoc for many. And we see less of these skeptics and perhaps media doesn’t give them as much attention like they used to. All to say more in the world now see climate change as urgent, requiring urgent action. We need to focus all our efforts in that movement of taking action on many levels.
What advice would you give to young climate change activists who are struggling with the impacts that climate change and climate change activism have had on their mental health?
What would you say to those who are feeling hopeless?
First, hopelessness can be a real damper on anyone’s life. Especially during these times we now live in. I would say first off, it is difficult for many youth to feel hopeful about their future in light of how the adult world and leaders are not taking action as urgently as they need to. In having said that though I don’t want anyone to feel hopeless as we need more hope in this world to get through these precarious times. I say respect climate change not fear it. Just as people are saying respect COVID not fear it.
Fear is such a paralysing emotion to have. Know that the solutions that will come to the forefront if we all start to move into a better understanding of the issues our interconnectedness as human being, It is not only about science, politics, or economics but one of our common humanity and human rights. We need to better address these issues from a human perspective. To feel deeply for the issues can be a daunting overwhelming feeling. But know that solutions will be found I am sure in your lifetime. The world is still beautiful and strong and we must build on that. Find nature when you can and sit in those places and spaces that show you just how resilient it still is and this will help feel your own spirit to carry on with hope. Big hug!
In your book it made me extremely frustrated by the fixed mindsets some people have. Who was the most difficult person to convince or to deal with during your political days?
Good question! I had to think about this as just one person didn’t really come to mind and I didn’t and don’t still try to ‘convince’ difficult people to come to a common understanding per say. When people have asked me “ How do you deal with skeptics or those who don’t want to understand?” Most times, my answer has been “I don’t” In other words I have focused more on what I can help to change rather than on those who don’t want to change. However I in terms of the work and dealing with Governments/Countries and some attitudes I would say in pioneering the work on connecting climate change as a human rights issue to bring forward a legal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was a very challenging task.
As you read the challenges were even within my own Inuit world to move in that direction, not to mention with big powerful countries like the USA which we targeted as the violators of the Human Rights of Inuit due to their in-action to address their greenhouse emissions. Just to reiterate I do try to focus on what I can help change rather than on those who don’t want to change. Otherwise I would burn out trying to convince those who are steadfast in their views of the world and life. I engage in the politics of influence rather than the politics of protest. I have found it to be more effective in changing the hearts and minds of the world.