Leena Heinämäki, a Senior Researcher in the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre (University of Lapland), and a vice-chair of the Arctic Law Thematic Network took part in the panel as one of the invited panelists. In her presentation, she focused on the value discussion that, according to her, is all too absent in the Arctic forums that call themselves sustainability forums. The only keynote speaker that directly brought up the necessary need to ponder and change our values in order to save the Arctic and the Globe was Carter Roberts, President and CEO in the World Wildlife Fund, United States.
Leena Heinämäki pointed out the important role of Arctic indigenous peoples in the value discussion. Only by emphasizing and balancing cultural and spiritual values with the social, environmental and economic values, we can reach a more holistic understanding and thereby create integral means to sustainable development in the Arctic. Indigenous peoples should be in the forefront to lead this discussion. Instead of seeing them merely as objects of protection with special rights, we should start viewing indigenous peoples (and not only in rhetoric) as true partners with significant contribution to the sustainability discourse and concrete solutions.
Not only indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, but also their deep spiritual philosophies embedded in their culture, have an important part to play in the global shift in human consciousness that is a prerequisite for the genuine sustainability. As long as economic values overrule social and particularly environmental values (now being the case reminded by Carter Roberts), we tend to keep a status quo in our international and national attempts to safeguard the Arctic. As rightly put by Al Gore in 1993: “The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis, the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis.” So the next step for decision-makers and each of us is to look within in the search of the deeper values beyond the material expansion.