Human “Message from the North” to climate negotiators

June 2, 2009

If you want to send a message, the old Hollywood saying goes, call Western Union. But environmental activists chose a different medium to get through to climate change negotiators: they put their bodies on the line — in this case, the Alaskan tundra — to spell out “Save The Arctic” and sketch the outline of a caribou.

Members of the Gwich’in Nation gathered last weekend near Arctic Village, Alaska, to send what they called a “Message from the North” to environmental diplomats gathering this week in Bonn, Germany.

The Alaskan activists want permanent protection from oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on the far northern edge of Alaska where caribou roam, along with urgent action to address climate change.

The Gwich’in people, who live in this area, were celebrating 20 years of activism to prevent oil drilling in the refuge. But climate change is a new and increasing threat, and even without drilling, they say the region has seen some of the most extreme impacts of global warming.

“Indigenous peoples live at the point of impact and are among the first to experience the catastrophic effects of climate change – the wisdom indigenous peoples offer is crucial to the survival of all life,” said Robby Romero, UN ambassador for the environment and founder of the native rock band Red Thunder, which performed at the event. “Everything new is hidden in the past – It will take traditional Indigenous wisdom and modern technology working together to lead us on a path of healing.”

The aerial image of the protest was created by artist John Quigley in collaboration with the Gwich’in Steering Committee and

Photo credit: Lou Dematteis/Spectral Q/Redux (People of the Gwich?in Nation gather on the tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge near Arctic Village, Alaska, May 30, 2009)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Although I think this is a powerful message, and obviously of grave concern to the Gwich’in peoples, I am wary of the diplomats in Bonn actually doing anything. We are too addicted to oil and gas, and the artic is the last “untapped” reserve.

Posted by Peter Jones | Report as abusive

SAVE THE CARIBOU. These people are clueless about the impacts of new drilling technology. No longer do we have to move drill rigs we use directional drilling. These oil rigs do not impinge or affect caribou. Like Greenpeace protesting oil tankers in diesel burning boats. Is all a big crock of doodoo. Regardless of what we do, our climated is changing, has changed over the last millenia or two, and will continue to change. The earth is a dynamic system. We need to get beyond the common held misconception that we are creating the abundance of green housed gases, and realize that these gases are created in response to larger scale solar cycles. We cannot control the change, just like we cannot control nature. The bugs were here long before dinosaur and man walked the earth and will be here long after we have gone, as will carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and a plethora of others.

Posted by Mark in Las Vegas | Report as abusive

[…] Environment » Blog Archive » Human “Message from the North” to … […]

Posted by Fashion Rocks 2003: Left & Right by Milla Jovovich | fashion clothing stores | Report as abusive

save the caribou..right on mark..the only thing left for obama is to get going and tap what america has for resources and take charge or will he just be another great american hope acting on where he can get his next vote..sameole-sameole….MAL IN MAINE

Posted by mal cochrane | Report as abusive

[…] of the Gwich’in Nation in Alaska used their bodies to spell out “Save the Arctic” and sketch the outline of a caribou for an aerial image that was presented to environmental […]

Posted by Experiments with truth: 6/3/09 / Waging Nonviolence | Report as abusive

I wish them well but I fear the battle is already lost. Inertia, finger pointing, carbon economics and hallowed economic growth are not a recipe for success, “green” business opportunities notwithstanding.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

The arctic is the last untapped reserve Peter. Mark in Las Vegas, I’m going to call you “Fear and Loathing” (to many psychotropics). You are right about one thing, the Earth has been changing over hundreds of millions of years. Global warming is part of those cycles. It always leads to mass extinctions.

Scientists the 1870s had theorized and held great concern as to whether or not man was warming the atmosphere with all the coal being burned due to the industrial revolution. It was not until the ground breaking work of WWII naval veteran Charles Revelle (Scripps Institute of Oceanography) did the scientific community get the facts in the late 50s and early 60s. Climate change indeed was occurring. The data is presented to Congress annually ever since.

To debate natural versus anthropogenic is an academic exercise. If we produce hot house gases we should limit them in order to mitigate the coming change. Conservation and a whole new life style should be embraced while we develop alternative energy sources.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

I have to agree with Anubis in that we must be educated in order to start debating,especially when it comes to nature versus anthropogenic because it is! an academic! or(hereditary native knowledge)exercise.
So if any of those “fear & loathings” clueless propagandists try to write anymore,please educate them, for they know not what they do or say.
“Save the Arctic” includes Humans,Caribou,Ecology Rivers,Tundra,Permafrost,Oxygen making trees and a plethora of others just to name a few!
America needs to wake up to the reality in which conservation and a whole new life style should be embraced while we all develop alternative! energy sources.
a concerned Citizen!

Posted by A Concerned Citizen | Report as abusive