Los Angeles artist and environmental activist John Quigley spent Earth Day 2004 coordinating the annual Earth Day celebration on the Third Street Promenade. On Earth Day 2005, he was at the North Pole, organizing another of his unique aerial artworks.
Inuit elders, spiritual leaders, and children formed a giant drum dancer on sea ice off Baffin Island in sub-zero temperatures to send an “Arctic Warning” about climate change.
They were joined by actors Salma Hayek and Jake Gyllenhaal, L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, California State Assemblyman Joe Nation and officials from NRDC, Global Green USA, Union of Concerned Scientists, Rainforest Action Network and Kyoto USA.
Arctic temperatures are rising at two to three times the rate of other parts of the globe and the warming is threatening the traditional Inuit way of life.
Shelia Watt-Cloutier, chairperson of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, convened Arctic Wisdom, a special briefing on Arctic issues, on Earth Day, April 22, in Iqaluit in Eastern Canada.
Winner of both the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award and the Sophie Prize for Environmental Leadership, Watt-Cloutier has urged the Bush administration to take global warming seriously.
“By looking at what is already happening in remote Inuit villages in Alaska…you can understand the future dangers for more populated areas of the world such as Florida, Louisiana or California,” she told a Senate committee hearing. “Use us in the Arctic as your early warning system. What is happening in the Arctic is a snapshot of the future of the planet, showing that, indeed, we are all connected. Climate change is the most important global issue we face today.”
Hayek told reporters that the Inuit were survivors. “We have a lot to learn from them if we follow their wonderful wisdom. Just listen to the land.”
The Inuit, led by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, will file a petition with the Human Rights Commission later this year to have global warming declared a human rights violation.
“The Inuit people put a human face on global warming, they are literally melting away. They are the canary in the coal mine,” Gyllenhaal said.
Arctic melting threatens both the native peoples and the wildlife in these remote regions now, and, if it continues unabated, it will gradually alter life on the rest of the globe as the loss of the polar cap will eliminate the earth’s ability to deflect heat from the sun, causing global warming to accelerate and oceans to rise worldwide.
According to scientists’ most conservative estimates, half the summer sea ice in the Arctic will melt by the end of this century, along with a significant portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet, as the region warms an additional seven to thirteen degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Rising sea levels are expected to accelerate as warming continues, according to the report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.
The Artic Warning event was co-sponsored by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the City of Iqaluit, Natural Resources Defense Council, Global Green USA, Union of Concerned Scientists, Rainforest Action Network, Kyoto USA, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, Loreto Bay Company, Canadian North, Frobisher Inn, Ayaya Communications, Nunatsiaq News, the Government of Nunavut, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canadian Helicopters and Spectral Q.
The image is based on a sketch by Inuit artist Josie Pitseolak.For more information check www.arcticwisdom.org.