This Week Around the World

May 16 Nunavut, Canada: After four years of constant litigation, the Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected a request from Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation to massively increase iron mining at the top of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. The proposed iron mine would have taken advantage of the massive deposits of iron in the region, at the cost of potentially destroying the narwhal population in the area—damaging the food security of Inuit people who rely on the animals. The announcement was a pleasant surprise for the conservation activists and Inuits who have been fighting against the company’s expansion. “I actually cried,” said Chris Debicki, vice president and counsel at the environmental protection organization Oceans North. “The case against expansion at this moment was too strong and community opposition was too loud.” The review board stated it found “significant and lasting negative effects on marine mammals, the marine environment, fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife, vegetation and freshwater.” The negative effects were stated to greatly impact Inuit harvesting, culture, land use and food security. According to Arctic marine biologist Kristen Westal, there was an “incredible, statistically significant decline in the narwhal population in this area” since Baffinland began its mining operations in 2015. The most common explanation for the decline is the mining transport ships interrupting the narwhal’s echolocation.

May 17 Khartoum, Sudan: After a revolution in April 2019 ousted the country’s 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir, an interim government was put in place to transition Sudan to civilian rule. However, in Oct. 2021, the military seized power, dismantling the temporary government and setting up a power system similar to al-Bashir’s. Since then, protesters have been met with brutal tactics used by security forces including tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition. One protestor donning a suit and mask—nicknamed the Spider-Man of Sudan—has become a symbol of protests in the country. “The military and counter-revolutionary parties, they stole Sudan’s revolution,” said Spidey to The Guardian. “They are like the former government of 30 years—there’s no difference between them and [al-Bashir’s] National Congress Party.” According to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, over 95 people have been killed in the protests since October. One of these confirmed deaths was Spider-Man’s close childhood friend. His friend’s death was the reason he put on the suit, claiming that it is an homage to him, as well as a reference to the spider who spun a web before the entrance of the cave Prophet Mohammed was hiding in, which made his enemies pass by. “The night comes and the night goes, everyday is like this,” Spidey said to The Guardian. “With the will of God, we still come out. Until today we continue to try to liberate the country but we have no fear. The people of Sudan, all of them, will continue to face the security forces and their bullets.”


May 19 Colombo, Sri Lanka: For the first time in its history, Sri Lanka has defaulted on its loans. Inflation rose to 40%, as food, fuel and medicine shortages, along with rolling blackouts, led to nationwide protests. The government announced Thursday that it had fallen into pre-emptive default, making it the first country in the Asia Pacific to ever default on an international loan. The loan in question was for $78 million. “Our position is very clear: until there is a debt restructure, we cannot repay,” said Nandale Weerasinghe, the central bank governor, to The Guardian. Sri Lanka’s central bank opened discussions with the International Monetary Fund, calling the details for moving forward “expeditious arrangements…to commence the external debt restructuring process.” The economic upset has been mostly blamed on the combination of COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the financial crisis is only expected to get worse over the next few months before any improvements will be made.