Power Summer Diaries #2 – There are strange things done in the midnight sun…
By Cam Fenton
It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m getting a sunburn on the shore of Great Slave Lake.
In front of me the lake stretches out as far as the eye can see, dotted with boats and tiny islands. Behind me the city of Yellowknife juts out from the rocky taiga shield. The juxtaposition of the city against the vast, seemingly infinite landscape of the Canadian Arctic is a stark reminder of why we started Power Summer here.
Many of us living in Canada’s southern cities and provinces still think about climate change in a future tense. We talk about crops failing in the future, the eventuality of water shortages and the potential impacts of sea level rise. Up here the impacts of climate change are not possibilities, they are the reality.
At Power Summer Arctic, local youth explained that each year the permafrost melt was increasing leading roads and houses to collapse. They broke down how changes in the seasons was leading to problems with the winter ice roads, key for the survival many northern communities in the winter, when food and fuel are delivered via these routes. Concerns are rising about the impacts of water pollution from the Tar Sands making their way further north. The already high cost of food is rising, and changes in the land are making maintaining a traditional diet harder and harder for the Indigenous people who make up a large portion of the population.
At the same time, the Arctic is becoming one of the newest frontiers for the fossil fuel industry. Right now the decades old Mackenzie gas project moving closer and closer to approval (and set to deliver thousands of cubic feet of natural gas to Alberta’s tar sands), proposed offshore drilling exploration in the Arctic Ocean Canada’s Arctic is becoming a reality. The Arctic is already the canary in the coal mine of climate change, but it is also one of the most important frontlines in the fight for a just, sustainable future and a transition away from a fossil fuel economy.
I wish I could spend another month here to listen, learn and work with local communities and activists to support their work, but something tells me that’s a feeling I’m going to have all summer. Tomorrow it’s back to Alberta to get ready for Power Summer Prairie this weekend.
Being here is a little like seeing that everything you’ve thrown away has been dumped in the middle of of community up the road a ways. Its a stark reminder that the impacts of this crisis are real, and that they’re happening in the here and now.
Thanks for reminding me why I do this.
Cameron Fenton is the National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, he will be writing a regular blog this summer as he crosses Canada to do action, strategy and education trainings across the country as part of the Power Summer project. Find out more and sign up for a camp near you!