Almost there! My train is slowly approaching Kiruna, a city in the very North of Sweden, right above the Arctic Circle. Looking outside the window, I see the beautiful, snow covered landscape of Lapland, home to the Sami, the Indigenous Peoples who inhabit this land. It's the furthest north I've ever been.
I'm travelling to Kiruna on behalf of more than 17,000 people who came together on the “I love Arctic” Global Day of Action in 38 countries across the globe to call on our political leaders to protect the Arctic from dangerous offshore oil drilling and destructive industrial scale fishing.
Tomorrow, on May 15, 2013, the Arctic Council will gather in Kiruna, for their bi-annual Foreign Ministers meeting. The Arctic Council is the political regional body of Arctic states, observers and permanent participants — Arctic Indigenous Peoples — who are shaping the future governance and management of the Arctic.
According to its own founding principles and achievements, the Arctic Council should put the protection of the people and environment of the Arctic first, but instead it seems as if national and corporate interests begin to replace these founding principles. I’m on my way to remind them of their original mandate as they sit down to discuss the future of the Arctic.
One major item on the agenda of tomorrow's meeting is the agreement on a document titled "Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic." As Greenpeace noted when we leaked this document in February, this is a disappointingly weak plan. It fails to set any practical minimum standards for preparedness and it doesn't even touch on the issue of company liability for the consequences of an oil spill. No oil company has ever proven it can clean up an oil spill in ice, and serious questions remain about the role oil companies played in drafting the document the Arctic Council is about to agree on tomorrow.
In the face of all this, I’m happy to be here to remind the Arctic Council of what’s at stake, and that they have a mandate beyond politicking and drafting useless document — a mandate to protect the Arctic not just for the Arctic states, but for people all around the world. Because we know that what happens in the Arctic effects everyone, everywhere.
As a documentation of the “I Love Arctic” Global Day of Action, I brought 14 picture books with me to Kiruna. Each of these books contains photos of all the 280 human banners, people formed on April 20 from Buenos Aires to Bangkok and from Oslo to Cape Town. The books also contain a photo-mosaic of more than 2,000 people holding up a speech bubble saying "I Love Arctic."
Very soon, on behalf of an ever growing Arctic movement, I'll have the honour of handing these beautiful books over to the foreign ministers as well as to the Arctic Council's permanent participants, the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic — the true stewards of the Arctic. Once this is done, I'll share the story of how it went with you all.
My train is rolling into Kiruna's central station now. Arctic Council, here we come!