Saturday, 29 October 2011

Science and Indigenous Knowledge (yet again revisited)

I just read an article in the Nunatsiaq News, titled, "Greens change stance on Inuit bowhead hunt" talking about the embarrassing display of neo-con behaviour by Nunavut MP, Leona Aglukkaq, who heckled an NDP member calling for an inquiry into the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland on Oct. 21 by shouting: "seals!". This prompted Elizabeth May to tweet:

"Since no one was attacking sealers, or sealing, there was no provocation for her rude outbursts. It was an ignorant display [from] a woman I usually respect."

This apparently started an online conversation between Iqaluit twitter users and May, that can only add esteem to her image here in Inuit Nunaat as far as I'm concerned - and I'm no Green Party or bowhead whale hunts apologist. This is because for the first time in our history a public official with a significant but largely invisible following has demonstrated a willing to listen rather than prejudge or remain silent on our culture by admitting that her party's policy stance on bowhead whales status is a work in progress.

But, what I wanted to highlight here was what came after in the Nunatsiaq News article, and something I mentioned earlier in my blog on Science and indigenous knowledge (part ii):

"The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada identifies the bowhead whale as threatened, but it's now reviewing that status.

That's because bowhead whale populations look much healthier than scientists once determined.

The [federal] Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates of the bowhead whale population jumped from 345 in 2000 to 3,000 in 2003, after aeriel survuys, then to 7,309 in 2007 and, then, in 2008, to 14,400.

The DFO's most recent stock assessment from three years ago says this latest number of 14,400 is only a 'partial estimate' and that there could actually be as many as 43,105 bowhead whales." (Nunatsiaq News, October 28, 2011, p 19)

Isn't that something! Inuit hunters, who are out there 365 days a year, have been saying for years and years that DFO's estimates seemed way off. I mean, I can understand the need for scientific skeptism and the need for conservative stance on things unproved but scientific research should never be unduly influenced and corrupted by short-sighted ideological/political agendas. Ever!

There have been a couple of government-employed scientists/researchers who come here, who've had the great arrogance and bigotry to try and assume "ownership" and "right to manage" the animals they study as they saw fit, and tried to belittle Inuit Knowledge with their father-knows-best attitude. I won't mention names but I think a comprehensive review of all scientific papers regarding arctic animals (and their management agendas) is in order. The good name of Science demands it.

To most Inuit, the image of "science" and logical positivism is unkind, oppressive and little-minded; a miser and bigot whose only power is the wilfullness to say NO! The Church, the Police... these have been used as tools of oppression; will Science be just another one?

Jay

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