Climate Change Tops Arctic Council Agenda in Portland

Jon Petter Gintal of Norway During a Break at the Arctic Council Meetings T oday.

Jon Petter Gintal of Norway During a Break at the Arctic Council Meetings T oday.

A Look Inside the Grand Ballroom at the Westin Hotel Where the Council Met.

An “Unauthorized”Peep Inside the Grand Ballroom at the Westin Hotel Where the Council Has Met for Two Days.

PJ Simon, am Athabascan Indian from Inland Alaska.

PJ Simon, am Athabascan Indian from Inland Alaska.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,541)

“We get a lot of information here that we do not normally get,” said Jon Petter Gintal, during a break this afternoon at the two-day Arctic Council conference held at the Westin Hotel,  “”One of the things I’ve learned here is that more is taken from the Arctic than is returned to it. It’s been about the economy of the Arctic.” {Gintal is a leader of the Saami people of Norway.)  There are others in Sweden, Finland and Russia. The conference ended late this afternoon.

“This has been a first visit to Portland for many from the international community.  These people usually go to New York City or Washington, D.C. for diplomatic meetings. So, this has been a more relaxed environment that people have enjoyed,” said Yvon S. Nam,, Public Affairs Officer for the Department of State, Bureau of Oceans, Washington, D.C.

There were no discussions of the role that Portland could play in the future of the Arctic  – contrary to spin spun by US Senator Angus King.  Any discussion of that sort might have occurred in off-agenda networking, but not during the sessions themselves according to Nam.

PJ Simon, from Alaska,  was taking a break in the bright sunshine outside the Westin  Hotel this afternoon;  he had accomplished his goals.  Simon said that it was important to get his agenda and concerns on an international forum. According to Simon the climate change is rapid in the Alaska interior where he lives.  “The freeze-up comes a month later.  Now it comes in November whereas it used to be in mid-October.  Our hunting cycles are disrupted.  We worry about the ice not freezing.  We travel by snow machine and dog teams in the winter.  It’s become dangerous, to do,” he said.

Simon went on to say that the United States is not doing enough to curb climate change.  The US needs to make more efficient vehicles.  If we can put rovers on Mars, then we should be able to make more efficient vehicles on earth. Something has got to be done because in twenty-three (23) years, there will be 9.2 billion people on earth,” he said.

Simon said he’s voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for president  because Trump doesn’t believe in climate change.  He’s happy that the Arctic Council came to Portland.  “It only heightens badly needed awareness in the mainland about climate change.”  (His wife is earning her Ph.D. in climate change.)

Preparations for this conference have been underway for about l l/2 years.  The Westin was selected by the State Department from a pool of hotels who applied, because it had both the space for the sessions and the rooms to house most of the one hundred + (100) attendees.  Among other benefits, it makes it less expensive because no shuttle costs between venues are needed according to Marilynne Bonner,of the State Department,  responsible for all logistics for the  conference.

Next May  there will be an official week of “celebration” in Alaska in which the chairmanship of the Arctic Council will be handed-off to Finland from the United States.  The US had been the chair since 2015.