From: Doug Mellgren, Associated Press
Published April 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Canadian Inuit Leader Wins Norway's Sophie Environment Prize

OSLO, Norway — Canadian Inuit leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier won the 2005 Sophia environment prize Wednesday for drawing attention to the impact of climate change and pollution on the traditional lifestyles of the Arctic's indigenous people and others.

The US$100,000 (euro77,000) prize was created in 1997 by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and his wife, Siri Dannevig. It is named after Gaarder's book "Sophie's World," a surprise international best-selling novel based on philosophy for young people.

The prize is intended to foster work aimed at improving the environment and sustainable development.

In a statement, the Oslo-based awards committee praised the 51-year-old Inuit leader for drawing world attention to the impact of the environment on her people's human rights and for "giving a human face to the effects of climate change."

"We are pressing the world to understand what is going on in the Arctic," said Watt-Cloutier in a statement issued by the awards committee. "We are being poisoned. A poisoned Inuk child, a poisoned Arctic and a poisoned planet are all one and the same"


The committee said she was selected "for her tireless effort to draw the world's attention to the devastating human effects of climate change and emissions of toxic chemicals."

Watt-Cloutier, born in Nunavik, northern Quebec, and raised in a traditional Inuit family, has been the chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference for the past decade. The organization, founded in 1997, represents about 155,000 Inuit in Canada, the United States, Greenland and Russia.

The awards committee said the world's Arctic regions are suffering rapid melting of ice and persistent levels of pollution, including man-made toxins, that threaten the way of life of the polar area's indigenous people.

"The Arctic is the world's barometer of climate change. We are the early warning system for the world," said Watt-Cloutier in the statement. "What is happening to us now will happen to others further south in years to come."

The committee said Watt-Cloutier has actively lobbied for controls of toxins and climate gases that put the Arctic region at risk.

The prize will be presented on June 15 at a ceremony in Oslo.

Last year's winner, Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai, went on to win the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.


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Source: Associated Press

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