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The Right To Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  183 reviews
Now in paperback, one of Canada's most passionate environmental and human rights activists addresses the global threat of climate change from the intimate perspective of her own Arctic childhood

The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it's not just the A
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Penguin Canada (first published March 17th 2015)
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3.45  · 
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 ·  777 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2019
I am obsessed with all things Arctic. I am fascinated by the land, the climate, the culture and the history of the Inuit people. Mostly I haunt social media sites to discover what it’s like to live in the extreme north. I even have Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut saved as favorites in the Weather Channel app so I can give my non-interested husband nightly updates on the weather conditions. (It’s currently 9 degrees in Kugluktuk and -18 degrees Farenheit in Rankin Inlet - a regular heat wave ...more
In The Right to be Cold, Sheila Watt-Cloutier recalls her childhood in the Canadian Arctic and her fight against the threat of climate change as an adult. The author takes us through her travels to Nova Scotia and Ontario at a young age, as well as her time in a residential vocational school in Churchill, Manitoba. During her years away from home, she had lost a great deal of her culture - it would be years before she was again fluent in her mother tongue - and when she returned home, it would b ...more
You know, it's a hard book to rate, this one.

Watt-Cloutier's message is important and also unique. There are many books to read about Canada's aboriginal experience (past and present -- both generally horrifying, maybe hopeful?) but this one is unique in its Inuk narrative, which is different and really vital, I'm convinced. I very much appreciated the book for this perspective, and was really, truly, oddly, embarrassingly uninformed before reading it.

She covers a really wide range of issues,
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me quite awhile to read this book. No fault of the book. Sheila is clear in her writing. Her mandate is simple in its delivery. Her passion is endless. She is unapologetic. She is bold. I saw her speak during Wordfest in Calgary, this past fall. She isn't an entertainer and seemed set apart from the other writers on the panel. And now I know why. Sheilas book isn't just a biography but a warning. A collection of warnings spanning numerous years from all over the arctic, using her home fr ...more
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

3.5 only because the later part has SO MUCH detail it is overwhelming to the general reader

The Right To Be Cold is Sheila Watt-Clouier's biography, concentrating on her life's work to protect the Inuit culture and the Arctic. She is inspiring and courageous.

She shares her story of growing up in Nunavik, learning her people's traditional way of life, hunting and preparing 'country food'. Young people were taught how to survive in the harsh climate. Igloos were stronger than tents and offered prot
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
In a sense, Inuit of my generation have lived in both the ice age and the space age. The modern world arrived slowly in some places in the world, and quickly in others. But in the Arctic, it appeared in a single generation. Like everyone I grew up with, I have seen ancient traditions give way to southern habits. I have seen communities broken apart or transformed dramatically by government policies. I have seen Inuit traditional wisdom supplanted by southern programs and institutions. And most
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
While there is some very important information in this book that Canadians (and the rest of the world) need to be made aware of, the delivery fails. The book is tedious to read filled with names of people and committee meetings that could and should have been edited out. Watt-Cloutier is extremely repetitive, and should have hired a ghost writer. This is not a well written book, thus it was a slog to get through.
Barth Siemens
Feb 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barth by: Canada Reads 2017 longlist
This book is not a super-highway to anywhere. But a book need not be—especially a memoir. Cards on the table? I usually avoid memoirs, but this paragraph from the cover jacket drew me in.

The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture—and ultimately the world—in the face of past, present, and future environmental degradation. Sheila Watt-Cloutier passionately argues that climate change is a human rights issue and one to which all of u
Michael Kerr
This book begins as a straight-up memoir of Inuit life at the moment of great transition from a traditional hunting culture to what we think of as modernity. Parts of it are shocking, tragic, and reveal shameful actions on the part of Canada's government. This narrative beginning gives context to the drive for change the author clearly demonstrates as the text then shifts to more overt political activism. Watt-Cloutier couches the climate-change argument in human terms, seeing it as a human righ ...more
Clare O'Beara
This is a fascinating memoir and cultural store from the author's memory of growing up as an Inuit in northern Canada, from the late 1950s.
If I told a normal person in Dublin that I was going to live with a child somewhere that had no sanitation, no major hospital, no fresh fruit except when berries ripened in autumn, no sanitary pads, no pill, alcoholism was rife, a mother was so poor she had to give away one of her babies when she was expecting a third, the child would be at risk f
Abigale Miller
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
The Right to Be Cold is a memoir about Sheila Watt-Cloutier's life in the Arctic and her life work fighting climate change.
The content of this book is incredibly important. In reading it, I learned so much about Inuit culture; about the connections between the Arctic environment and ecosystems elsewhere; and the connections between culture and the environment. Sheila Watt-Cloutier does a remarkable job explaining how protecting the Arctic and Inuit culture can help protect the whole world, and
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very interesting biography of one of the leading Inuk women of our time. This book brought to life the reality of the true people of the north through Watt-Cloutier's frank telling of life in the north for the Inuit and how the last decades have changed so much for them and the land. Valuable lessons for all of us.
Too bad. This is an important book about an important topic, but I just found it too tedious. I wish she had spent more time on life in the Arctic then and now with so much climate change and less on the political/interpersonal problems. I read only about a third of it.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
For a book that is classified as a 'memoir' it is bogged down with useless data. Aside from the important content regarding indigenous affairs, and climate change, the author comes across as someone confused about their purpose for writing this book. In this sense, either the author was too lazy to write the book in an academic non-fiction format, or she simply wanted to inject her (biased and subjective) experiences into the read (as you would expect with a memoir).

In much of the author's earl
Mme LionHead
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
It took me more than six months and still, I have not (and now decided not to) finish this book.

I had high hopes for this book: the premise sounds interesting and the subject matter is right up my alley; however, the book fails in its delivery. Watt-Cloutier writes in a very repetitive format and of many frivolous details, which I noticed seems to be the style of many First Nation writers'. Unfortunately, the way she tells her stories just doesn't capture my imagination, The last third of the bo
The Book Girl
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it

Wow, that was a read. It was a textbook of information. I am giving this one three stars because it was so overwhelming with details and facts. I love nonfiction books but I am just a general reader. I don't need a dissertation on climate change. Yes, I realize this is a controversial topic. I will not be speaking on that.

The Right To Be Cold is Sheila Watt-Clouier is a biography that is packed with details about her life's work to protect the Inuit culture and the Arctic. She is such an inspir
The Arctic is the world's air conditioner. But the Arctic is seeing warming rates at double the rest of the globe. It is much more than the environment at risk; the culture of an entire people group, the Inuk of the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the United States is on the verge of disappearing along with the ice and snow they have lived in unison with for centuries. And the melting causes rising sea levels, which is affecting the survival of indigenous peoples even as far awa ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is no doubt that Sheila Watt-Cloutier has written a book that is close to her heart. She describes how she has grown up and lives in an environment where the Inuit culture not only gives you your identity, but also the knowledge you need to survive. She then does an excellent job of demonstrating how that culture is being sabotaged by the ravages of Climate Change. I struggle with the book when Watt-Cloutier leaves talking about her personal experiences to describe, in tremendous detail, t ...more
Chris Harrison
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
This year, I am reading CBC’s “12 Books by Indigenous Women You Should Read”. The Right to be Cold is one of them.

As the subtitle claims, The Right to be Cold is “One woman’s story of protecting her culture, the arctic and the whole planet”. Watt-Cloutier has certainly been a very active activist! She writes about the work she has done in health care, in education, in shaping policy and on the international stage. In fact, she’s been involved in so much work protecting the north, that I had trou
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
After reading this book I feel that I better understand the Inuit populations in Canada, especially their connection to the environment the importance of the hunting culture. The author shows that the reality of climate change, the impact of Persistent Organic Pollutants, and the impact of southern politics and institutions has degraded that culture resulting in social problems that must be solved from within in order to be effective.

The political story, which ended with a connection made betwe
David Pilon
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
A must read. An important read. Cloutier's memoir and fight for global awareness of climate change highlights the interconnectedness of earth's living (and non-living) organisms. It was very interesting and inspiring. There were specific explanations about pollutants and philosophical phrases I held on to.

I especially respect Cloutier for describing the political struggles she faced during her journey to bring awareness to the world about the effects on the Arctic- and the rest of the world- bec
The one issue I had with this book (from my year of being involved in ARA) is that she continually misconstrues the arguments re: animal rights. Otoh, ARAs are in general, incredibly ignorant and racist and fail to give any consideration at all to how their actions affect indigenous peoples (as seen in the seal hunt debacle) so it's not something I care about very much. It just niggles given that I spent the last year reading ARA discourse.
DNF at 10%

I could plod through this book, but I won't. I only read memoirs when I know the person and I'm interested in their life, but the beginning of this book is so slow and I'm just not interested in Sheila Watt Cloutier's childhood experiences.

I applaud her for her environmental activism and I understand this is an important topic to learn about, but it's not one of my interests and I know this book is going to be painful for me to finish, so I just won't bother.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2018
Watt-Cloutier is an incredible woman who brings to light often undiscussed topics related to the Arctic people of Canada, and I am thankful that this book has given me the motivation to read more about the environmental and social struggles mentioned within. however, the book itself is rather dry as it progresses, devolving into long lists of organizations, acronyms and who attending meeting X, Y, Z.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, the book definitely gave me a more human perspective on climate change and its effects. I had always thought of images of polar bear and animals when thinking about this. One of the draw backs of the book was a lot of name dropping and the memoir did get a little bogged down in places with all the various commuters and meeting she was involved with . Other than that definitely a worthwhile read and I learned a lot about life in Northern Canada
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 02_fiction
The first half of this book is an affecting biography of Inuit life and how drastically that life has been impacted by modernity. The second half of the book describes meetings, lots and lots of environmental, cultural and policy meetings. There's a lot of great substance here to make one think and consider their place in a world where we are all connected, though we may not know or admit it.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I learned a lot from this book and marveled at the precise concision of the language. As a biography, this might leave readers wondering after more personal details, but I enjoyed the political elements of Watt-Cloutier's historic interventions into POPs and human rights at the international level.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting look at life in northern Canada and the effects of climate, air, and decisions. Not only did Sheila Watt-Cloutier write very knowledgeably about these subjects but she also wrote about her personal story.

Natasha Penney
Review pending
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am embarrassed to admit that I was unfamiliar with the incredible work of Sheila Watt-Cloutier before coming across her memoir, but thrilled that others will now know her epic journey!
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“But the difficulty I had being front and centre, as well as all the other obstacles the job presented, made me realize that struggles follow you for a reason in life. They follow you until you learn how to overcome them, and come to clearly understand what your life’s intention is: that the greatest challenge is to remain true to yourself and to your beliefs.The” 0 likes
“But the difficulty I had being front and centre, as well as all the other obstacles the job presented, made me realize that struggles follow you for a reason in life. They follow you until you learn how to overcome them, and come to clearly understand what your life’s intention is: that the greatest challenge is to remain true to yourself and to your beliefs.The self-reflection and growth I went through in those early days at the Makivik Corporation were good things.” 0 likes
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