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Scientists, religious, Native leaders discuss environment, find that they are diverse allies

Posted: May 9, 2011 - 8:58pm

FAIRBANKS — Scientists, Native elders and religious leaders took part in a four-hour panel discussion on how to become better stewards of the Earth.

“As everyone talks, we have a lot more in common than you thought,” said Larry Merculieff, a Native leader and moderator of Saturday’s “One People, One Earth.”

Dr. Larry Hinzman, director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, used the occasion to briefly outline scientific worries about climate change and global warming.

He said these changes are especially noticeable in Alaska and are causing effects that include permafrost warming, glacier melting, wildfires, disappearing lakes, coastal erosion and severe storms.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Muslim Imam Ataur Chowdhury, a UAF physics professor, cited passages from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that mandate Muslims protect the environment.

As a physicist, Chowdhury said it is a fact the world is going in the wrong direction.

“We have become greedy people, and the greed is the root cause of the degradation of the natural world,” he said

Native elder Ole Lake reflected on his childhood in Hooper Bay when most of the food was obtained from the land, rivers and sea.

“We as a society now want to break everything down and build it up again,” Lake said. “Nature is not for us to break down and build up again.”

Terry Chapin, a UAF professor of ecology, said he likes to think science is beginning to grow up and look more at how things are interrelated.

“It is beginning to become really clear to scientists that if we want to understand what is going on in the world, we need to understand relationships that people are involved with,” he said.

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