Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 20, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Greenpeace ship, actor Emma Thompson, heading to Nunavut

Arctic Sunrise will bring solar panels to install on Clyde River community hall

LISA GREGOIRE
Greenpeace icebreaker The Arctic Sunrise in front of a glacier in Svalbard, Norway. The ship and crew will depart from Atlantic Canada in early August for Clyde River, its first ever Nunavut trip. (PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN ÅSLUND/GREENPEACE)
Greenpeace icebreaker The Arctic Sunrise in front of a glacier in Svalbard, Norway. The ship and crew will depart from Atlantic Canada in early August for Clyde River, its first ever Nunavut trip. (PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN ÅSLUND/GREENPEACE)
Actor Emma Thompson with Igloolik filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk at the Berlin film festival in February. Thompson, a climate change activist, plans to visit Clyde River this summer as part of a community visit by Greenpeace Canada. (PHOTO COURTESY Z. KUNUK)
Actor Emma Thompson with Igloolik filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk at the Berlin film festival in February. Thompson, a climate change activist, plans to visit Clyde River this summer as part of a community visit by Greenpeace Canada. (PHOTO COURTESY Z. KUNUK)

Greenpeace Canada’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker will set sail from Atlantic Canada in early August, loaded down with 27 solar panels to install on the Clyde River community hall.

And Greenpeace organizers are saying that Hollywood actor and climate change activist Emma Thompson and her daughter are planning to be in Clyde River to meet the ship when it arrives.

Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Farrah Khan said July 18 that staff with the environmental organization are finalizing details for the two-week community visit that will include local workshops on peaceful protesting and ship excursions for local residents.

Former Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine said that while Greenpeace plans to bring expertise, technology and star power to Clyde River this summer, the community of 1,000 or so people has a few things to offer in return.

They plan to hold a feast for their guests as well as demonstrate traditional kayak making and seal skin processing — a symbolic gesture of reconciliation after Greenpeace’s historic alliance with the anti-sealing movement that so devastated northern towns such as Clyde River in the 1970s and 1980s.

“People are genuinely grateful for all the support that [Greenpeace] has given,” said Natanine.

That support includes paying the bulk of Clyde River’s legal costs to fight seismic testing off the coast of Baffin Island, a fight that will reach the Supreme Court of Canada in November.

“They were there when our Inuit organizations were not there, when no one was saying anything. Greenpeace came out to support us. That had real positive effects on people.”

Khan said Greenpeace has been working hard to build trust among northern peoples.

“It’s an important relationship. We do want to make sure we are only providing help when it’s agreed to, and also making sure it’s a true collaboration and that the needs of the community are put first,” she said.

Natanine said he’s hoping the project prompts community members to consider solar panels for their homes and raises awareness for other communities, and the GN, to pursue renewable energy projects.

Nunavut imports roughly 45 million litres of diesel fuel annually to produce electricity. According to the GN’s Ikummatiit website, Nunavut’s greenhouse gas emissions consisted of 473,813 tonnes of Carbon dioxide equivalent in 2014, an increase of 14,941 from 2009.

Clyde River’s current mayor James Qillaq wrote Greenpeace a welcome letter for the visit and he plans to join other Clyde River residents on the Arctic Sunrise ship when it’s in town.

But when asked for a comment, Qillaq said, “I don’t want to talk to you.”

A year in the planning, the northern voyage will mark the first time the Arctic Sunrise makes a stop in Nunavut.

The ship and crew were on Greenland’s east coast last summer tracking a seismic testing operation there to use in their campaign against the practice, and against drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.

Last year, Greenpeace staffers flew to Clyde River to show support for the community’s opposition to seismic testing and brought along Duncan Martin from Vancouver Renewable Energy to assess the feasibility of a local solar project.

After that visit, VREC [Vancouver Renewable Energy] wrote a report suggesting three possible buildings for solar power. After consultation with the Qulliq Energy Corp., and local people, they decided on the community hall.

The solar power generated will not be fed into the local power grid but will go solely into powering the community centre, Khan said.

According to the VREC assessment, solar panels will provide “supplemental power” only. The building will remain connected to the grid to draw extra electricity when necessary.

If Qulliq ever installs a net metering system, excess power generated by the building could be “sold” back to the utility for credit, the VREC report says.

Clyde River has 24-hour sunlight from early May to late July, but even in February and October, the community gets seven to eight hours of sunlight per day. The sun disappears for roughly two months, from mid-November to mid-January.

Khan said Greenpeace and Clyde River residents are currently raising money to pay for the $35,000 cost of purchasing and installing the panels. Emma Thompson and other donors have agreed to match donations raised to the end of July, up to $75,000.

Once installed, Clyde River’s community hall will have one of the world’s most northernmost solar energy systems, Khan said.

“This is our way of using the reach of this organization to help a community that’s really on the frontline of climate change,” she said.

“A community that is doing what they can to save the Arctic, because it’s their home and because they care so deeply about protecting their environment and protecting their culture.”

Staff with VREC plan to install the panels and hold training workshops on solar panel use and maintenance while in Clyde River.

They also plan to leave behind a prototype mobile solar kit that can be taken out and used on the land.

The $1,400 unit can be transported by qamutiq and provide 120 V of power from a double outlet inverter — enough to charge communications devices, small power tools, lights and other light loads.

Greenpeace, at the request of several people in the community, will also offer workshops in peaceful protest in partnership with the Indigenous Peoples Power Project or IP3, part of the Ruckus Society’s roster of protest training options.

Khan said that in the event Clyde River’s fight to stop seismic testing fails at the Supreme Court, members of the community wanted to learn how to continue their opposition to a practice that will occur deep in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, out of reach for local water craft.

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