A Climate for Wisdom?

“Why don’t researchers ever ask us about wisdom?”

Almost a year after I began talking with Jaypeetee Arnakak about Inuit ways of thinking about northern warming, he asked me this question. From his position as an Inuit policy worker and philosopher, Arnakak stressed to me that wisdom, or silatuniq in Inuktitut, should be of central importance to anyone concerned with climate change.


We have lost our way. The climate is in crisis. Might a more spiritual view of the climate help us change course? Here, an Inuit cairn (inuksuk) guides travelers on Whistler Mountain in Canada. Credit: Creative Commons/Evan Leeson.

Considering the significant changes that are occurring globally and in the north — a region that some describe as climate change’s canary in the coal mine — it may seem highly impractical to shift our attention from questions of how to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to that of wisdom. What may seem even more impractical is the argument I am going to make in this article: that a sustainable and just response to northern warming and global climate change may depend on our capacity to inspire climate research and politics with something akin to silatuniq.

For many who study northern warming and global climate change, there is an increasing sense of urgency that a comprehensive response needs to be initiated now; the time for delays is over. In Fall 2010, Lester Brown wrote in Tikkun that “we’re beginning to move in the right direction but we’ve got to move faster.” A year earlier, Paul Wapner expressed a similar sentiment in this magazine by quoting a 2007 statement from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri that declared: “The next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

Whether we choose to heed such urgent calls for change or continue with our current political and economic inertia, significant change on climatic and cultural scales is on the way. In that context, do we have time for wisdom? To explain why I think an Inuit view of silatuniq is important beyond the north, it is helpful to start by going back to the events that led to the discussion in which Arnakak introduced this concept.

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Tim Leduc has published the book Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North, which brings Inuit views of northern warming into a transformative dialogue with Western climate research. He works in Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto.

Source Citation

Leduc, Timothy B. 2011. A Climate for Wisdom? Tikkun 26(3).

tags: Climate Change, Environment   
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  1. Pingback: Article Published in Tikkun Magazine « Climate, Culture, Change

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