Land And Resources In The Modern World
The Distinction Between Renewable And Non-Renewable
||The different cultural backgrounds,
and the different time-span of their involvement with the Arctic,
leads to a difference in attitudes to nature and natural resources.
For Native peoples, nature is something to be respected, sometimes
even feared. The Inuit in Canada have a word ilira, meaning a sense
of awe. Nature gives her wealth to humans, but only in exchange
for respect. Within the European tradition, on the other hand, nature
is often thought of as something to be conquered. Many outsiders
believe that the landscape and the animals are there for humans
to use without saying 'thank you' to anybody.
||It is helpful to distinguish between
resources as renewable and non-renewable. Renewable resources are
those like animals and plants which up to a certain level can safely
be 'harvested', since they will grow back and replace themselves.
So if animals are hunted at the same rate at which they breed, and
trees cut down at the rate at which the forest regenerates, they
will not die out and they can continue to support a human population.
Non-renewable resources are minerals like oil, gas, coal and metal
ores. Once these have been used up, they are finished for ever.
Humans who depend on them for a living must leave the area and move
on somewhere else.
||This distinction between renewable
and non-renewable resources corresponds broadly to the indigenous
and outsider use of the Arctic today. In particular, an emphasis
on renewable resources corresponds to the perspective of a community
who expect to remain there for generations and who manage their
resources for the sake of their grandchildren as much as for themselves.
This cannot be the perspective of a miner who comes for a few years
to an unfamiliar land to which he has no long-term commitment. Of
course, Native communities do affect their environment and even
damage it. All human societies, and even groups of animals, may
do this. But the scale of the impact of modern society can be uniquely
destructive because of the effect of its machines. There is also
an economic reason for this. As shown below, there is in the Arctic
a particular incentive to exploit resources on a gigantic scale.