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.”