Book Review: The Right to Be Cold

From The Catalyst, Summer 2016

The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet
By Sheila Watt- Cloutier
Penguin Random House, 2015

Reviewed by Christine Boyle

For decades, environmentalists have worked to rouse people into compassionate action with images of suffering animals and denigrated ecosystems. The images were real, and important, but they only told a portion of the story.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s writing places people— particularly the Inuit—into the story. Watt-Cloutier invites readers into her life’s stories. She begins with an understanding of the Arctic of her childhood. Next, she brings us through the changes brought by residential schools and increased southern influence. Finally, she outlines and explains her political and advocacy work on behalf of her people.

The current climate crisis overlaps with this country’s history of colonization in numerous ways. The changing Arctic is perhaps the most vivid example. It is an important part of Canadian history to understand and a timely call to action. Both the urgent work of climate change and reconciliation compel bold, faithful responses.

Watt-Cloutier asserts, as both a cultural and a spiritual belief, that “everything is connected.” Her life’s work, her international success, and her community’s struggles are a compelling testament to that belief. Her honesty, humility, and determination humanize her massive accomplishments. But she is clear that there is still work to be done.

I’m glad I didn’t procrastinate any longer in reading this book. As spring heat waves and forest fires in the West made me despair for our collective future, Watt- Cloutier’s book fired me back up. Climate justice and reconciliation are our shared work. Everything is connected.

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