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Sunday, 15 May 2011 07:20

A pristine North?

Written by  Sarah McNair-Landry
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DumpsiteDistance traveled:
May 14th: To the airport and back
May 15th: 132.5 km

Position: N67°35'31.2 W087°52'25.5

We walked down the main street of town, past the hotel, then the church; were given some more route advice by a couple friendly guys hanging out in front of the local co-op store; then continued on towards the airport to check if our resupply of food, and most importantly our maps, had arrived. Still no luck. Hopefully they'll arrive on the next flight.

As we walked back, I admired the location of the town, perched on the ocean by the mouth of a river, with a beautiful backdrop of rocky hills. Surprisingly, we have yet to see the town dump, which was probably hidden behind a hill, during our walks.

Many think of the North as pristine and clean; however, the dump sites in most communities in Nunavut stick up like a sore thumb. As we skied into Taloyoak a couple weeks ago, the first sign of town was a cloud of ravens circling their landfill. Back in Cambridge Bay, while a friend was giving us a tour of town (which, of course, included the dump), we watched two men throw out bags of good quality winter jackets and snow pants. We stopped and picked up the clothing, filling the back of our friend's pick up truck - it wouldn't be hard to find people who would need winter jackets. This kind of wasteful behaviour happens regularly in all the communities, earning the dumps in the North the nickname "Canadian Tire", after the chain of hardware stores.

And what happens to the trash? Most communities pile it up and light it on fire, burning plastics outside at low temperatures just beside the town.

But how can we blame the small towns, when Iqaluit, both the capital of Nunavut and my home town, sets no better example. Although we have now stopped burning our garbage, we pile it up into a mountain of trash that is now several times higher than the fences that surround the dump. Located on an island with high cost of shipping, most supplies arrive in town by boat or plane, and never leave, adding to our landfill site.

The problem first came to my attention a couple of years back when my brother, some friends and myself started to build a cabin; the goal was to use only recycled materials, most of which found at the dump. As you can imagine, we got to know that dump site pretty well, and I started to wonder, is there no better option? Was recycling or compost a feasible option for the city? Thanks to ONF (the french division of National Film Board of Canada), I launched myself into a two year project researching, writing and directing a film on the topic, featuring both the construction of our cabin, and one man's struggle to run a compost project in town.

See it for your self: www.nfb.ca/film/

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Sarah McNair-Landry

Sarah McNair-Landry

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