Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oil and mineral prices mean money and jobs, but Inuit leaders are over the lack of a national debate about the industrialization affected and what it means for the traditional lifestyle,

"I certainly have seen the benefits that can come from [oil] royalties. Schools are better. There are swimming pools, gymnasium, cars – and jobs – all the result of billions of dollars."

Patricia Cochran, a former chairman of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Alaska, expresses the view of many indigenous peoples on the industrial development in the Arctic. Vast oil and mineral resources have enormous benefits brought some communities.

But her own conflicting feelings about the development neatly sum of the dilemma, the indigenous leaders throughout the region. In Barrow - Alaska 's oil capital - there are also high rates of suicide and depression, while offshore drilling is a threat to subsistence whaling and the hunting of seals and walruses, she says. So despite the odds, Cochran is personally very negatively on the industrial development and other issues of benefit to society.

"I personally will be a problem with it. I was raised in a traditional manner and consider it my task to an administrator in the country. I see this [industrialized] world of hedonism and consumerism as a sign we have lost our moral compass. "

And there are fears that the huge sums of money can sometimes offer too tempting. Aqqaluk Lynge, current Chairman of the Council, says the wave of money that large multinational corporations to bring their lobbying "overwhelmed" local community organizations.

Lynge, a continuing activist based in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is most concerned about the decision by the government there to allow British-based oil explorer, Cairn Energy, to drill last summer and again this year. But he is also worried about moves by Canadian metals group, Alcoa, to try to press ahead with plans to build a massive aluminium smelter on the island.

Certainly the big oil companies that have been active in the seas off Alaska since the late 1980s are keen to be seen consulting local people.

Terry Macalister


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