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Journal of Political Ecology:
Case Studies in History and Society
VOLUME 6 (1999)
and Sustainability, by Milton M.R. Freeman, Lyudmila Bogolovskaya,
Richard A. Caulfied, Ingmar Egede, Igor I. Krupnik, and Marc G. Stevenson.
Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press (1998) 208 pp.
Reviewed by Grete K. Hovelsrud-Broda, Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543.
who is familiar with Inuit communities will recognize the complexities
being addressed in this book. However, while many of the particulars discussed
are unique to the Arctic region, the overall problem is not. Inuit
whaling exemplifies a basic socio-political and cultural conflict between
the center (industrial society) and the periphery (small scale, geographically
isolated communities with mixed cash/subsistence economies). The added
tension presented in this book stems from the fact that sustainable whaling
is a complicated issue. Few people in the Arctic, or in the western world,
are neutral on this question, albeit for very different reasons. Whaling
is, as this book illustrates, an emotionally charged issue for people
living in urban centers, in particular in the United States and Europe.
Whaling, and Sustainability is divided into six chapters and an introduction
whose title is formulated as a question: "A Book on Inuit Whaling?"
The introduction sets out to answer this question and in the process identifies
areas of inquiry that are involved in attempting to reduce the ignorance
surrounding Inuit and whaling.
chapter addresses the various ways that whaling is important in contemporary
Inuit communities. Different sections deal with the social and cultural
importance of whaling, whaling as a source of food and a source of health
and nutrition, the economic aspects of whaling, and lastly how whaling
is connected to the spiritual life of Inuit.
2 presents Inuit whaling in a historical framework. The chapter is divided
into sections on different whale species, how each country has used these
in the past, and how they are utilized today. There is no mention of "tomorrow"
despite the chapter title suggesting so. This is an informative chapter
on species-specific utilization by country. It also touches upon
the development of technology through time. In Chapter 3 the discussion
moves into the international arena and onto issues of human rights, the
International Whaling Commission, and other international initiatives.
This is an important chapter, because it highlights how whaling is discussed,
and often misrepresented, in various international fora.
4 reviews Inuit whaling management regimes in the US (Alaska), Canada,
Russia and Greenland. It also discusses joint management regimes
between countries involving both Inuit and non-Inuit. Management of natural
renewable resources is a critical topic in the whaling debate: who should
manage the resources and on the basis of what type of knowledge, scientific
or indigenous, or both? This chapter addresses these types of questions.
5 is titled "Challenges to the Sustainable Use of Whales by Inuit." This
is a critical chapter for understanding the various obstacles Inuit people
face, both those coming from humans and nature itself. It outlines
the politics of anti-whaling and that of the International Whaling Commission.
The issues confronting the sustainability of Inuit whaling converge in
this chapter, making it both interesting and important.
6 examines how the future of Inuit whaling can be secured. A significant
point is that Inuit are seen as stewards and caretakers of the resources
they use. The way Inuit produce food from the sea differs from that of
fisheries. Inuit whaling is not harmful to the environment. It does
not create by-catch that is wasted, like in many types of fisheries. It
does not use harmful substances often found in agriculture. Inuit whaling
must be considered within this positive context. Though the number of
Inuit-run organizations representing the "grass root" level
on the question of sustainable whaling is increasing, the authors call
for Inuit users to be fully involved with management and regulatory decision
chapter ends with a set of suggested readings pertaining to the subjects
covered in that particular section. This allows for a broadening of the
relevant topics for those who wants to continue a study of the questions
addressed. This is very useful because the book in itself, albeit quite
comprehensive, does not provide detailed material for each country, or
on each issue. Instead, this book is an extensive overview of the issues
confronting Inuit and sustainable whaling.
are generous in their use of photographs and quotes from a number of Inuit
communities throughout the Arctic region: Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. These
oral and visual illustrations combine to create a vivid picture of the
sentiments, realities and issues experienced by the Inuit in relation
to whaling. Furthermore, the maneuvering between the regional and the
local is effective because it allows the reader to move between the general
and the particular. The writing style varies somewhat throughout the book,
which is probably due to the fact that different authors are responsible
for different sections.
(and other large mammals such as elephants) hold a special place in the
cultures of urbanites in the western world. One result of this interest
has been intense lobbying, on national and international arenas, against
whaling. This highly politicized issue is the backdrop for this book.
The question of sustainable use of whales becomes blurred against this
backdrop, because sustainability in this context is no longer simply concerned
with biology and population dynamics, but with differing cultural perceptions
about the intrinsic value of whales.
whaling is much more than a philosophy or political stance. It is a way
of life. It is therefore quite incomprehensible to Inuit that people
who do not understand the socio-cultural connotations of whaling, and
the nutritional and spiritual aspects of whaling, have taken it upon themselves
to argue for whaling to come to a halt. The book illustrates, through
copious usage of quotes by Inuit, the range of ways that whaling is important
to them. These quotes are taken from Inuit of all ages "living
throughout the Inuit homelands," including students, hunters and
imperialism is an important challenge to the Inuit way of life. In
this context the authors refer to the cultural and ideological domination
by those who are against whaling. It becomes a cultural question
when those who are against are also far removed from the reality of a
hunting culture. Anti-whaling groups argue that whales should be saved
because of their superior intelligence and because they are innocent animals.
The arguments against whaling (and sealing for that matter) are based
on notions that the animals caught suffer at the hands of humans. The
authors, on the other hand, argue eloquently that those who campaign for
the protection of animals actually harm the people who "care most
about marine mammals and who have the greatest stake in these animalsâ
continuing health and survival" (157). Ironically environmental protection
includes protection of whales, and is often presented in the format of
individual animals in need of protection. This concern for the individual
animalâs welfare "continues to confront and oppose Inuit
(and othersâ) hunting of whales for food, even when the species
in question are [not endangered]" (p. 162). It is this continued
sentiment that is a major threat to Inuit livelihood, and the essence
of this book.
though the authors claim that the "issue of competing value systems
is indeed the greatest challenge to Inuit use of local resources"
(p 147), this book expands on issues beyond the conflict between anti-whaling
groups and Inuit. Inuit face other challenges when it comes to the question
of sustainable whaling.
is that of contaminants and pollution. These pollutants are generally
from industrialized nations and enter the Arctic region by water and by
air. They effect the whole ecosystem, from the microscopic plants, organisms
and fish living in the sea to the marine mammals feeding on these. Because
of the nature of the ecosystem and the food chain, and because Inuit mainly
live from natural resources, they ingest these pollutants and contaminants
on a daily basis. Naturally this is of grave concern to all who live from
the sea in the northern latitudes.
concerns address the need for promoting management regimes that involve
Inuit technological and environmental knowledge in conjunction with that
of science. The value of Inuit knowledge cannot be ignored. This is currently
an important topic receiving increasing attention in many areas of knowledge
acquisition and dissemination.
of authors is impressive. They represent some of the best scholars on
Inuit and whaling. The situation in each of the countries where Inuit
live, Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the USA (Alaska only) is unique in
many aspects. There are cultural, socioeconomic, political and social
differences. However, some fundamental principles are shared that justify
the collective title Inuit, Whaling, and Sustainability. The whales
may be caught by different methods; different whales may be hunted in
different regions, but all Inuit share a strong connection to whales as
food, as maintaining cultural and spiritual values, and as being subject
to attacks from the anti-whaling movements. On this point this book is
book illuminates how socio-political and cultural aspects of resource
use, on the local level, are juxtaposed to external, international influences,
as they may appear anywhere in the world. It does this by addressing
1) local-global linkages; 2) that sustainability is a complicated concept
beyond the question of how to define the term; 3) how cultural variability
and social policy are played out on the international arena; 4) the cultural
variability in resource management and knowledge; and 5) how whaling (and
other renewable resource uses) are critical in maintaining cultural, socio-economic,
and spiritual aspects of Inuit life. Use of resources that are natural,
renewable, and of non-endangered species (these terms are critical here)
are deeply embedded in the Inuit culture and economy. All of these issues
are part of the discussions on the sustainability of Inuit whaling. One
of the pivotal points is that whaling cannot be separated from the culture,
the social structure and the economy. This fact creates the conflict between
Inuit and the various international groups that are opposed to whaling.
Inuit whaling in contemporary society the authors identify problematic
issues pertaining to tradition and adaptability. Anti-whaling groups
prefer traditions and cultures to be static while anthropologists in general,
and also those on this team of authors understand the two as being dynamic.
The phrase "Inuit whaling has always been adaptive" (p 26)
is a key to this issue and to the reality of all contemporary hunting
communities. It is particularly pertinent to whaling (and also sealing)
because many of the arguments against it are founded on faulty notions
of tradition, and of what constitutes indigenous resource use and activities.
by a student in the eastern Arctic:
symbolizes the critical issues discussed in this book. It speaks to the continued relationship between humans and animals in the arctic and to the conflict between the culture of the users of whales versus the cultures of the anti-whaling nations, groups, and individuals. Inuit recognize multiple uses of whales and other marine mammals, of which nutrition and food are but two. Whaling activity, the whales themselves, consumption of whale products, and the social relationships formed through whaling are all elements of Inuit culture. This book is an important contribution in the effort to increase the understanding of these facts.