The right to be cold

I struggle with the cold and dark at this time of year, wishing I could skip the boots and walk barefoot across warm summer grass. So, The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet by Sheila Watt-Cloutier has been good and important reading for me as cold arctic air blows through Montreal.

Watt-Cloutier is an internationally-known Inuit activist from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik. In The Right to Be Cold, she reminds us of what is being lost from the world of her childhood.

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. …  To live in a boundless landscape and a close-knit culture in which everything matters, and everything is connected is a kind of magic.

And she underscores the global implications losing this interconnected culture and ecosystem. “If we allow the Arctic to melt, we lose more than the planet that has nurtured us for all of human history,” she says, “We lose the wisdom required for us to sustain it.” She reminds us that we are all bound up in this together. The arctic is at the forefront; nowhere is very far behind.  

I am grateful for her words, chastened, humbled, I give thanks for this cold day, for the things we can do now if we work together, for Watt-Cloutier’s prophetic voice, and for God who gives us hope and strength to respond. And I am grateful too for those to stand up for our right to be cold!

This message was written by Alyson Huntly for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.