Ever since proposals for an Arctic Railway have been discussed the indigenous Sami community have fought hard against it. In September 2018 with the support of indigenous groups from across the world and international NGO Greenpeace they demonstrated, catching the world’s attention. “No access without consent.”
Such a railway through the Great Northern Forest would be devastating for the environment as well as the traditional lives of the Sami peoples. The forest is the largest terrestrial carbon store on earth and the Sami rely on reindeer herding, fishing, hunter gathering and handmade crafts; all would be affected by such a railway.
Recent reports show that we need to plant 1.2 trillion trees to hold enough carbon to cancel out CO2 emissions. Trees are “our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change,” remarked the author. And leaving existing trees standing is clearly an important step in the fight against climate change. Evidence has shown time and time again, indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the forest. Where indigenous peoples have clear rights, more forest remain standing.
Progress is being made; just last week a joint Finnish-Norwegian working group concluded that the railway was not financially viable.
Tiina Sanila-Aikio, President of the Sámi Parliament in Finland, shares exactly what’s at stake.
Words by Tiina Sanila-Aikio
Images by Joel Redman