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The Arctic As A Homeland
by Piers Vitebsky
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Conflicts Over Land And Resources In The Modern World
The Distinction Between Renewable And Non-Renewable Resources
  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.
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The Arctic is a Homeland, by Piers Vitebsky.
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