Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Spiritual North

Yesterday I finished Sheila Watt-Cloutier's biography, The Right to be Cold. I wrote about hearing her interviewed about the book several months ago and being impressed by this Inuit activist who has effectively advocated on behalf of the people of the North. For decades she has cajoled the international community to recognize the devastating effect of the "dirty dozen" POPs, the Persistent Organic Pollutants which are a chemical time bomb. While they are produced in the south they migrate northward and affect the health of people who we might think are isolated from them. Watt Cloutier was very involved in the development of the Stockholm Convention of 2001 to address POPs.

The title The Right to be Cold comes from a comment by a reporter at an international meeting who reflected the human rights of indigenous peoples in the North as "the right to be cold." While Watt- Cloutier eventually realized that this comment was somewhat restricting, it became a good catch phrase for her work. She reminds us that what happens in the North may be "out of sight and out of mind" but it not only effects the traditional people of the land, it is a barometer for the health of the planet. Climate change is very evident in the North, and it is having a profound impact on the way of life of Inuit people. For people of this region "ice is life," but the disappearance of ice there

The Right to be Cold is also a spiritual book, something I did not expect. Watt-Cloutier describes how the "country food" of the traditional diet not only fuels those who live in a harsh climate, it is almost sacramental for her and her people. She notes as well that learning to hunt instills spiritual values of patience and perseverance, and respect for all living things.

I found that I was quite emotional at times, and I read a number of passages to my patient spouse, Ruth. I would love to converse with Sheila, and it is has stirred a hankering to visit the far North.

Does this book intrigue you? Have you spent time in the North? Do you understand why I would describe it as spiritual?

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