Stars come out to highlight Arctic warming

Activists use “politics of influence” to shape opinion


Enough of scientists and their predictions of the climate change: they haven’t yet managed to convince the United States to get serious about Arctic warming.

That’s why the Inuit Circumpolar Conference is embracing another strategy to change government policy, one based on an alliance between Inuit and powerful international environmental lobby groups like Global Green, the Natural Resource Defence Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and their allies in various legislatures and Hollywood.

These groups are able to attract stars to their causes – actors like Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal, 24, who was in Iqaluit last week for the Arctic Wisdom event, is a new convert in the fight against Arctic warming.

“I’m not into the science,” said Gyllenhaal said in a chat with the Nunatsiaq News. “But I do care about the effects.”

Gyllenhaal starred in the recent disaster film, “The Day After Tomorrow,” about a new ice age, which is triggered by climate change.

But the film’s special effects – not real ice or snow – created the frigid background when, among other calamities, New York City was flash-frozen in an ice sheet.

“Ironically it was warm,” Gyllenhaal said. “It was colder inside than out.”

The young actor said he wasn’t sure about whether the disastrous scenario played out in the film could ever happen in reality.

“But you never know,” he said.

Like Gyllenhaal, the majority of North Americans are “clueless” about Inuit and what is happening to the climate in the Arctic, according to ICC chair Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

But Gyllenhaal’s mere presence in Iqaluit led to several news service articles carried on Web news sites, which reach millions of readers and may stir up public outrage over Arctic warming.

Environmental activists call this approach the “politics of influence,” that is, using public opinion – not scientific arguments – to bring about political change.

At a scientific briefing before last Friday’s Arctic Wisdom event in Iqaluit, Watt-Cloutier said most scientists are now in agreement that the climate is warming. She said a major shift in public opinion is what’s needed now to get governments to act.

“It is through the public that change can be made,” she said.

Money and support from environmental groups may also assist ICC in its upcoming human rights claim at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that Inuit face extinction because of global warming.

The Washington-based commission, which is the Americas’ equivalent of the European court of human rights, will be asked to rule against the U.S. government.

But the commission has no power to enforce any action, so the idea behind the claim is more to embarrass U.S. government and educate the public.

In exchange for assistance in raising awareness, the environmental groups are also likely to use Inuit, just as they use movie stars, in public relations efforts to promote greenhouse gas reductions or alternative energy sources.

The recent Global Green Annual Green Car campaign at the Oscars saw Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sting, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, and Jack Black, arriving at the Academy Awards in alternative fuel vehicles rather than gas-guzzling limousines.

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