Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Visits Fort McMurray To Meet With ACFN Leaders

One of the world’s most renowned climate activist made her way to oil country this week.

Greta Thunberg met with leaders of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation on Friday, in Fort McMurray, allowing ACFN a chance to share the perspective of Indigenous peoples living in Northern Alberta.

In a release, ACFN Chief Allan Adam says they were pleased the 16-year-old wanted to meet with them and learn about their traditional ways of life.

“We had a great discussion and we’re happy that she’s choosing to educate herself about the local Indigenous people’s perspective as part of her tour of Alberta,” Chief Adam said.

ACFN are Denesuline people who’ve been stewards of their traditional lands for 7,000 years and have a deep connection to the land, animals, fish and water.

Members of ACFN are active in traditional activities such as hunting, trapping and gathering – which are all impacted by the effects of climate change.

ACFN is also one of several First Nations in the Athabasca region seeking a just transition toward a carbon-neutral economy.

In addition, Chief Adam was able to share with Thunberg how ACFN has positively influenced oil sands developments in their traditional territories by working with proponents to ensure practices are more sustainable and environmentally responsible.

“In Alberta, we have a regulatory system that leaves us no choice, either you oppose a project only to have it rubber-stamped by the regulator and then you get nothing, or you work with industry to push them to adopt cleaner practices while generating some employment for our members. It’s not ideal, but we have to make it work for the betterment of our Nation – it is far preferable to be on the inside to try to influence it,” Chief Adam explained.

ACFN notes they also work to ensure economic benefits for local Nations through the creation of business and employment opportunities.

Chief Adam says the far north experience climate change three times faster than the more temperate regions to the south.

“We aren’t talking about a one- or two-degree Celsius change here, we are facing a shift of up to seven degrees within our lifetimes. Our people don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye to climate change.”

ACFN has been a leader in transitioning to the green energy sector – working with 3 Nations Energy to develop Canada’s largest remote solar farm and helping shift Fort Chipewyan away from Diesel fuel.

They are also leading efforts in the region to protect the remaining bison, caribou, waterfowl and fish through conservation and co-management programs.

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