Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two views of the north

A few weeks after I got to Inuvik, a British journalist named Oliver Burkeman dropped by our office. He was there writing about northern sovereignty, oil and gas, etc, etc...

His article was more negative than positive, in my view, portraying the north through the eyes of an outsider.

"It isn't hard, visiting the Canadian Arctic, to feel as though you have reached the back of beyond: a place at the edge of the map, empty except for the caribou and a few improbably hardy humans, who journey for miles to shop at Inuvik's solitary supermarket, which sells overpriced groceries shipped from "down south" - meaning the northern Canadian city of Edmonton - along with a small selection of snowmobiles."

Inuvik has three supermarkets, not one. It was the first of several errors in his article, "A very cold war indeed."

I duly reported them to the editor of the guardian, but I didn't receive a response.

Today I read an excellent article about another northern country, Iceland. It was called, No wonder Iceland and the happiest people on earth. (Also by a reporter from The Guardian.) I saw many similarities between what Iceland did during World War Two, and what is currently happening in the North as it embraces industry on its own terms. There is a similar view here of family, and of welcoming children. It's not, as reporters in the south might have you believe, a epidemic of unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Perhaps it is because my job is to seek out the good news, but I see such potential here. And when I read article's like Oliver Burkeman's, portraying the north as a backwoods and its people as pawns in the geopolitical game currently being played out, I can't help but get a bit mad.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Night and Day

Spring in Inuvik is not like spring back East. Yesterday we got 10 centimeters of snow. The roads are now rivers of dirty slush. We have had some warm days. But warm up here is anything near 0C. Anything above 0C is downright hot.

Every day I have the trouble of deciding whether or not I’ll wear my light spring jacket, or my heavy parka. It comes down to whether I’d rather be a bit too warm, or a bit too cold.

At least the pussywillows are out. That has to count for something.

Last time I checked we’re nearing 18 hours of sunlight a day. We gain about 10 minutes every day, or over an hour every week.
The strangest thing of all is that the sun now sets before it rises in the run of a day. Technically, a day begins at 12:00am. Lately sunset has been around 12:15am. And sunrise is around 5:00am. So technically, the sun sets before it rises. “Night” as most people know it is for a few short hours in the morning. The mind boggles.