Reflections from Baffin Island
PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor January 18, 2021
Many European explorers have passed through these waters, explorers of old looking for a shortcut to Asia. One of them was the English explorer William Baffin who searched for the Northwest Passage and journeyed here in the early 17th century. He died a long away from Baffin Island in the Persian Gulf in 1622 doing surveys for the East India Company. Henry Hudson also looked for the passage and sailed by Baffin Island on the way to what would become known as Hudson Bay in 1610. Recently scientists found traces of a long lost continent that used to measure 8 million square kilometers called a craton from the top of the world based on kimberlite rock fragments found on Baffin. They date from hundreds of millions of years ago during the time of Pangea, the supercontinent.
Ezra is a young Inuit man of twenty who hunts, who survives and who has a deep respect for the ways of his people, the Inuit of Pangnirtung (population 1,400), on the southeastern coast of Baffin Island, the world’s fifth largest. He knows who he is and where his people come from. How they have survived for countless millennia. And how his people have suffered having to cope with the modern world. In my encounter with him near the famed Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with Ezra, whose concerns for his people are varied.
Needless to say, the northern lights are marvelous up there, but according to the Inuit even those have changed and since 1990 have not been as bright as they used to be following climate change.
If we can improve the climate situation, the lights will become brighter! An Inuit elder we met in Pangnirtung in 2011 said that we still had time to address climate change, but warned we are making too much pollution. “We are not relating to our culture, only to things — cameras, computers and not each other,” the elder said. “Now it’s all ATVs and skidoos. It was more fun in the old days, walking far and using kayaks.”
The following words are Ezra’s:
For us being on the other side, you can really see the things that happen when living with all of nature. In the case of the polar bear, everything revolves around him, you see the destruction coming from these machines. It’s a sacred animal, when is it going to stop? People realize that nature is not something to just conquer…minerals and diamonds … They’ll be no more lion, they’ll be no more tiger. So I say there are sustainable ways of living, if you’re only goal is to be alive, then that’s all you need. There’s respect between the earth and the people here. When there’s something unnatural, it turns into a cycle …that’s how it destroys things.