Jamaican-Born, World Civility Ambassador Dr. Rebecca Finlason-Harper Supports Arctic Youth Ambassador Position on Importance of Family

World Civility Ambassador & Founder of The Family Civility Institute Dr. Rebecca Finlason-Harper has underscored the views of Arctic Youth Ambassador Charitie Ropati about the importance of the family dynamic in caring for the earth. Dr. Finlason-Harper who hails from Jamaica, but now resident in Canada, was in New York for the 2024 UN Partnership Forum organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). She lauded the dynamic presentation of the youth delegate who shared about her family and the key learnings that had taken place.

“I remember my grandmother teaching me to cut fish for the first time back home in Kongiganak. My hands were shaky as I awkwardly held the ulu to cut parts of the salmon to be hung dried on a rack made of driftwood. After I finished, I lifted the salmon towards her. She grinned, and told me it looked like shark bait. Her gentle teasing gave me joy. I felt connected to her, to my community, and to the land and water,” noted Ropati.

The Arctic Youth Ambassador and Girl Rising Fellow, during her keynote issued a call to global leaders to take action and do what needs to be done to transition away from fossil fuels. The activist and ecologist of Yup’ik and Samoan heritage, recalled that in 1967, her grandfather and other men moved their homes 11 miles with rope, a small tractor and dog sleds because they knew that the ground underneath their previous home was sinking due to thawing permafrost.

Jamaican-Born World Civility Ambassador Dr Rebecca Finlason-Harper Supports Arctic Youth Ambassador Position on Importance of Family - Charitie Ropati

According to Ms. Ropati, who hails from Kongiganak, a tiny village in south-west Alaska, this was done without any help from federal government, state organizations or outside aid, pointing out that Indigenous peoples often rely solely on themselves to ensure the survival of the next generation amidst a changing climate.  She told the delegates that her people have subsisted from the land and ocean along Alaska’s west coast for thousands of years, and stressed: “Our people were never poor, because the land always provided, and we took care of her.”  She noted that this bond brought joy, and this is how her people define their wealth, she said. But underscored, however: “Fossil fuels are killing us – what more am I to tell you? – what more do you need to understand?”

In a heartfelt keynote from Ms. Ropati, recipient of the WWF-US 2023 Conservation Leadership Award, she remarked that the act of assigning value to land and commodifying its resources directly contradicts the principles of harmony she learned growing up, “Our salmon are disappearing from our rivers, our sea ice is melting, permafrost is thawing, sea levels are rising, land is sinking, my people are dying. What more do you need to know?

She adds that Indigenous peoples make up less than 5 per cent of the global population, however, they protect 80 per cent of global biodiversity. Despite that dedication to protect the land, she said, entire ecosystems are dying because global leaders are not willing to do what needs to be done — “a just, immediate transition away from fossil fuels.”

Ms. Ropati issued a challenge to global leaders to invest in communities that have continuously adapted to climate change — like her own — adding that decisions should not be made about such communities without them. “We need to be at the table, in rooms like the one we are in today,” she stressed. The Arctic Youth Ambassador told the rapt audience, “Stop pretending that this crisis is not happening and take direct action.”