SHORTLISTED FOR CANADA READS 2017
Now in paperback, one of Canada's most passionate environmental and human rights activists addresses the global threat of climate change from the intimate perspective of her own Arctic childhood
The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it's not just the Arctic. The whole world is changing in dangerous, unpredictable ways. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has devoted her life to protecting what is threatened and nurturing what has been wounded. In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier's regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.
About the author
SHEILA WATT-CLOUTIER is one of the world’s most recognized environmental and human rights activists. Experienced in working with global decision makers for over a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for twenty-first-century leadership. She treats the issues of our day—the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability—not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. In 2007, Watt-Cloutier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy work in showing the impact global climate change has on human rights, especially in the Arctic, where it is felt more immediately and more dramatically than anywhere else in the world.
In addition to her Nobel nomination, Watt-Cloutier has been awarded the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, and the prestigious Norwegian Sophie Prize. She is also an officer of the Order of Canada. From 1995 to 2002, she served as the elected Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). In 2002, she was elected international chair of the council. Under her leadership, the world’s first international legal action on climate change was launched with a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
- Long-listed, Canada Reads
- Short-listed, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
- Short-listed, Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction
- Short-listed, British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
- Short-listed, Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing
- Winner, Ontario Historical Society Huguenot Society of Canada Award
Excerpt: The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet (by (author) Sheila Watt-Cloutier)
The world I was born into has changed forever.
For the first ten years of my life, I travelled only by dog team. As the youngest child of four on our family hunting and ice fishing trips, I would be snuggled into warm blankets and fur in a box tied safely on top of the qamutiik, the dogsled. I would view the vast expanses of Arctic sky and feel the crunching of the snow and the ice below me as our dogs, led by my brothers, Charlie and Elijah, carried us safely across the frozen land. I remember just as vividly the Arctic summer scenes that slipped by as I sat in the canoe on the way to our hunting and fishing grounds.The world was blue and white and rocky, and defined by the things that had an immediate bearing on us—the people who helped and cared for us, the dogs that gave us their strength, the water and land that nurtured us. The Arctic may seem cold and dark to those who don’t know it well, but for us a day of hunting or fishing brought the most succulent, nutritious food. Then there would be the intense joy as we gathered together as family and friends, sharing and partaking of the same animal in a communal meal. To live in a boundless landscape and a close-knit culture in which everything matters and everything is connected is a kind of magic. Like generations of Inuit, I bonded with the ice and snow.
Those idyllic moments of my childhood seem very far away these days. Today, while dog teams, qajaqs (kayaks) and canoes are at times still used to move out onto the Arctic land and water, snow machines are more common than dogs, and the hum of fast-moving powerboats is now heard on Arctic waters. All of our communities now have airports, medical clinics and schools, with some having hospitals, television stations, daycares and colleges. Our people still hunt and fish, sew and bead, but they are also nurses, lawyers, teachers, business people and politicians. The Arctic is a different place than it was when I was a child. And while many of the changes are positive, the journey into the modern world was not an easy one—and it has left its scars.
In a sense, Inuit of my generation have lived in both the ice age and the space age. The modern world arrived slowly in some places in the world, and quickly in others. But in the Arctic, it appeared in a single generation. Like everyone I grew up with, I have seen ancient traditions give way to southern habits. I have seen communities broken apart or transformed dramatically by government policies. I have seen Inuit traditional wisdom supplanted by southern programs and institutions. And most shockingly, like all my fellow Inuit, I have seen what seemed permanent begin to melt away.
The Arctic ice and snow, the frozen terrain that Inuit life has depended on for millennia, is now diminishing in front of our eyes.
SHORTLISTED FOR CANADA READS 2017
"Loss, suppression and ultimate rediscovery of voice are themes that run through this courageous and revelatory memoir."
—Naomi Klein, The Globe and Mail
"This is a book that needs to be read as the North becomes central to our future. It offers a perspective grounded in the culture and wisdom of northern people, seen through the lens of a remarkable woman as they seek to preserve 'The Right to be Cold.'"
—Lloyd Axworthy, academic, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee
"This is a moving and passionate story from a committed woman who has bridged the ice age to the digital age. Her sophisticated views on the environment and the way the world works from her engaged involvement are brilliant and convincing."
—The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, journalist and former Governor General