The air was abuzz this morning in Kiruna. As delegates and press were mingling in the breakfast hall, Foreign Ministers were entering their policed motorcades and a group of Greenpeace volunteers was making final preparations to greet the decision makers with banners and signs along the road. But in the midst of all this, we were honoured with a quiet yet very special moment.
In a branch of the hotel lobby we gathered with four representatives of Arctic Indigenous Peoples; amongst them were Chief Michael Stickman, International Chair of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, and James Gamble, Interim Executive Director of the Aleut International Association, both Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council, who received two of the I Love Arctic photo books that we brought to Kiruna.
Hand over of 'I Love Arctic' photo-books to two Permanent Participants of Arctic Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic Council. From the left to the right: Ethan Gilbert (Greenpeace), Chief Michael Stickman (International Chair, Arctic Athabaskan Council), Chief Gary Harrison (Alaska Chair, Arctic Athabaskan Council), Chief Bill Erasmus (International Vice-Chair, Arctic Athabaskan Council), James Gamble (Interim Executive Director, Aleut International Association), Kiera-Dawn Kolson (Greenpeace).
In support of the I Love Arctic project, Chief Bill Erasmus of the Arctic Athabaskan Council carried four books with him into the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting to distribute them on our behalf to the four remaining Permanent Participants. We waved him goodbye in the cold air, warmed by the sight of over 17,000 people’s hopes and dreams for the Arctic making their way into the exclusive meeting.
Already yesterday, as delegates and Ministers were shuttled from the airport to Kiruna's city centre, they were greeted by activists presenting I Love Arctic photos on huge banners along the road.
US Secretary of State John Kerry's motorcade passes I Love Arctic photo banners on the way to Kiruna.
Inspired by the events so far, we still had one goal to fulfill: the handover of the books to the Arctic Council member states. Today's final appointment was with the outgoing Chair of the Arctic Council Gustaf Lind and the Danish Arctic Ambassador Klavs Holm, who received the last eight of the I Love Arctic photo books.
Swedish Arctic campaigner Therese Jacobson hands over 'I Love Arctic' books to the outgoing Chair of the Arctic Council Gustaf Lind and the Danish Arctic Ambassador Klavs Holm.
Despite the weak outcome of the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting, which was full of nice words, yet failed to sufficiently address pressing issues like greenhouse gas emissions of the Arctic States, Black Carbon or the real risks of Arctic oil drilling with concrete plans of action, we leave tomorrow knowing that the call of our ever-growing global movement for the Arctic was heard loud and clear in Kiruna.
Bringing the voices of people across the globe to the Arctic Council meeting was an important milestone. The struggle to save the Arctic and the future of our planet is a marathon, not a sprint. Together we celebrate the culmination of our achievements - tomorrow it's back to work.