Listen to the North

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A fascinating editorial from our neighbors to the North. We live about four miles as the crow flies from the Canadian border but for us, it is one vast conurbation from Vancouver stretching hundreds of miles East along the border to the Okanogans. What we experience of Canada is not influenced that much by the Culture of the Arctic. It seems that the Culture of the Arctic is being managed by the bureaucrats of the South and people are not happy... From the Literary Review of Canada:
Listen to the North
Cramming northerners� needs into a southern model just isn�t working.

Sometimes we understand events in our lives immediately. Sometimes it takes decades. I have gradually realized over the last year that my view of Canada, indeed my view of how my own life could or should be lived, was radically transformed late in the winter of 1976 on my first trip to the Arctic. I was 29, fresh from seven years in France, first writing my PhD, then running a small investment firm in Paris. Those are experiences that produce a southern, urban, European-oriented self-confidence, which could also be described as the attitude of a classic colonial Canadian.

I travelled north with Maurice Strong, the founding chair and CEO of Petro-Canada. It had begun operations on the first of January that year. Maurice was its first employee. As his assistant, I was the second and so doubled the size of the national oil company. It was a Crown corporation and had inherited the shares the government held in some of the private companies exploring for oil and gas in the High Arctic islands. The government had financed some of these risky ventures or rescued them. And so we were going north to look over our property; that is, the people�s property.

On our way to the High Arctic islands, we flew into Inuvik�then an oil and gas boom town�on the delta of the Mackenzie River where it flowed into the Arctic Ocean. The first meeting Maurice had organized was with the local hunters and trappers associations. I believe they represented the Inuit, the Dene and the Gwich�in. I went into the room filled with goodwill, thanks to my urban, southern, western views�in other words, I was out to lunch. An hour and a half later I walked out in a state of deep confusion. It seemed that there was another way of looking at society, another way of looking at the land, at human relationships, at the relationship between society and the land.

This other view was not necessarily to the left or the right, for or against oil exploration or other forms of development. This was a different philosophy, a Canadian philosophy, not derivative of the South or the West. It existed outside of those rational structures of thought that aim to separate humans from everything else in order to raise us to a privileged position in which our interests trump those of the place in which we exist. Whatever the advantages of this approach, we are now faced with unintended outcomes such as climate change. This other philosophy, when I first heard it applied in Inuvik, is just as interested in human well-being, but sees it in a context integrated with the place. And so these hunters were asking tough questions about the broader, longer-term impacts of each narrow southern-style proposal for what we thought of as progress.
Some wonderful and thoughtful writing -- I am putting the Literary Review of Canada on my favorites as a possible addition to the blogroll.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on October 15, 2009 7:29 PM.

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