Climate Change, Northern Ontario & Chief Theresa Spence

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My last post was about a children’s book on climate change and polar bears. This post is going to be about climate change and Northern Ontarians. There are communities in Northern Ontario where the roads drive over ice. This news article from almost a year ago describing how the roads are built:

The measurements are crucial. Ice of 43 inches across the river will support commercial loads of about 100,000 pounds (45,000 kilograms). Unaided by men, the river would freeze to only about two feet or so. And the James Bay Winter Road, which follows the bay’s western coast about 300 kilometres from Moosonee to Attawapiskat, won’t open to its heavy traffic of supply trucks to isolated native communities until safe thickness is reached.

So the Kataquapits, or another crew, will insert a pump hose down into the river to siphon water for flooding the ice once more, the berms containing the water, to deepen and strengthen the crossing. Two wide lanes are built, here and at other water crossings along the road. Traffic uses one while the other is built up. The next day, the process is switched.

Here is a story from a few weeks ago about how having a shorter season for the ice-road caused a fuel crisis for the Kashechewan First Nation. The road didn’t hold up long enough and then bad weather prevented the barges from bringing fuel. In this case the government did step in to help, but help isn’t always available.

Last year the Attawapiskat First Nations community declared a state of emergency over their housing crisis, and the Canadian government slapped them with a third party manager. Federal Court deemed the government’s actions “unreasonable” and the third-party manager was eventually removed. Critics of the government argue that the imposition of the manager was meant partly to scare other tribes away from asking for help.

In any case, the Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now on day nine of a hunger strike demanding that the Canadian Prime Minister and a representative of the Queen meet with her to discuss how the government has been failing to honor its treaty obligations.

Does it seem like I’ve moved off of the topic of global climate change? Only partly. Those already suffering from poverty and lack of control of their resources are going to suffer more if we allow climate change to continue. Drought is raising the price of food worldwide, and the melting roads means the price of food goes even higher in the far north. World-wide we need to not only address climate change (and as quickly as we can) but we also need to look at what we can do to reduce the stresses of climate change for those who are most vulnerable, most likely to have to skip meals and go without heating. Climate change is going to make already unfair situations even more unfair.

News about Theresa Spence’s hunger strike can be found by following  #theresaspence on twitter and there’s really good coverage of it on http://aptn.ca/pages/news/. Chief Spence’s actions have tied in with a growing movement #idlenomore where people, particularily but not limited to first nations people, are standing up and taking action to bring about change. Read about it here and here.

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