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Watt-Cloutier gets honorary degree from Bowdoin College

University has historic ties with arctic exploration



Environmental activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier of Iqaluit received her first honorary doctorate from a U.S. university this past weekend.

Watt-Cloutier received the honorary degree from Bowdoin College in Bruns­wick, Maine on May 24.

“Environmental activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier has been a powerful and effective voice in the growing discussion of global climate change, human rights, and political and economic policies within the international arena,” said the biographical notes accompanying a Bowdoin College news release on Watt-Cloutier’s award.

The mascot of Bowdoin College, an undergraduate liberal arts institution founded in 1794, is the polar bear. The link to the Arctic comes from two of its graduates, Arctic explorers Robert E. Peary (Class of 1877) and Donald B. MacMillan (Class of 1898).

Speaking in front of the college’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center during the college’s graduation ceremony, Watt-Cloutier urged everyone to do whatever they can do to curb climate change.

“We must retake real control over that development by insisting that every opportunity and program be systematically analyzed against its impact on our world; meaning the greenhouse gases it will emit, the unsustainable cycles it will feed, and the lasting impact it will make on our delicate landscape and the health of our people,” Watt-Cloutier said.

“Whenever we make these development decisions, we should consider all of the implications for what we are doing, not only for ourselves and our future generations, but for all of those to whom we are connected around the world by our common air and sea.”

To date, Watt-Cloutier has received eight honorary degrees from Canadian universities, the 2004 National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the 2005 Sophie Prize, Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Program, the Northern Medal (Canada), the Order of Greenland, the 2007 Rachel Carson Prize and the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award by the United Nations.

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