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Arctic Warming and Traditional Knowledge of Climate Change

The New York Times Science Section has today the second in a series on climate change in the Arctic. Much of the article is set in Russia, but its geographic range is wide and includes numerous comments about the impact of melting sea ice on northern Canadian communities. The article comments, for example, on the impact of climate change on the quality of hunted and gathered food:

Now the accelerating retreat of the sea ice is making it even harder to preserve their connections to “country food” and tradition. In Canada, Inuit hunters report that an increasing number of polar bears look emaciated because the shrinking ice cover has curtailed their ability to fatten up on seals. In Alaska, whale hunters working in unusually open seas have seen walruses try to climb onto their white boats, mistaking them for ice floes.

Hank Rogers, a 54-year-old Inuvialuit who helps patrol Canada’s Far North, said the pelts of fox, marten and other game he trapped were thinning. As for the flesh of fish caught in coastal estuaries of the Yukon, “they’re too mushy,” he said. Slushy snow and weaker ice has made traveling by snowmobile impossible in places.

This article fits well with a number of posts from The Language Log dealing with an increase in stories about the lack of words related to climate change in the Inuit language and the absurdity of such stories.

The Language Log also offers comment on “the obligatory reference to Eskimo Snow Vocabulary” in today’s NYT piece.

And, it is worth mentioning again Julie Cruikshank’s new book called Do Glacier’s Listen: Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination on the production of traditional knowledge particularly as it relates to climate change in the Yukon. I blogged briefly about the book in an earlier post about a BBC story on arctic climate change.

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