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niyad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 09:37 AM
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preserving the future-indigenous women take on big oil
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Preserving the Future

April 20, 2011 by Catherine A. Traywick

Indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada are taking on Big Oil and winning.

By Catherine Traywick

Most people dont know what a subsistence way of life is, says Faith Gemmill, an environmental activist from the Gwichin territories in northern Alaska. In other places, if you need anything you just go to the grocery store. Here, its not like that. We hunt for our food; we fish; we gather. Its the cost of survival for us.

On Alaskas North Slope, where below-zero temperatures and underlying permafrost preclude agricultural development, indigenous communities necessarily rely on caribou and fishing for sustenance. But this subsistence way of life, which for many also bears a deep historical and cultural significance, is daily threatened by encroaching industries bent on extracting the regions abundant fossil fuelsat any cost.

As a site of major oil exploration since the 1970s, Alaska now produces about 13 percent of the nations domestically sourced oil, with production steadily expanding across the Arctic. The cumulative effects of this development have impacted local communities in myriad ways. While a 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that industry development displaced subsistence animals, damaged the tundra and exacerbated climate-change effects,Gemmill argues that the long-term impacts on humans are even worse.

One community that has been surrounded by oil and gas development reported higher rates of asthma, pneumonia and other upper respiratory illnesses, she explains, adding that potential risks are even greater. If there were ever an oil spill, there is no way they could clean it up. They admit they dont have the technology to clean up oil on ice.

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