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Another Climate Change, Culture Change Story (An expensive one to boot …)

Doug Struck at the Washington Post writes another story this week about climate and culture change in the Canadian arctic. (Previous story here about a new arctic park; my blog post here.) Struck’s current story describes the decreasing feasibility of sustenance hunting.

Peter Taptuna, the manager of the local hunting association, is quoted. His impressions of the changes (complete with hunting words for flavour) are summarized this way:

Men and women still go out to gather what they call “country food,” harvested with rifles, nets and traps. But that is extra food on the table. “Most of the hunting is done in the co-op,” groused one old-timer. Taptuna does not disagree.

“There’s no future living off the land. Those days are gone,” he says. He figures it costs an average of about $60,000 to equip a hunter to go out. Add preciously priced fuel for the skimobile or boat motor. The furs and hides brought back by the hunter fetch a fraction of their price before anti-fur campaigns made them politically unfashionable.

“It’s going to come to a point that it’s not worth harvesting,” Taptuna said. “It will be cheaper to go to the co-op and buy a dead chicken. All these harvesting skills are going to be lost.”

He prowls around his office, the patience of the hunter lost to the frustrations of a man losing his past.

Sixty thousand dollars (USD presumably) to equip a hunter? Seriously? Struck mentions snowmobiles and boat motors, but surely those are one-time costs which add up to much less than $60,000. Perhaps the cost of boats and planes to get to more and more remote hunting areas is factored in. This is not, clearly, the hunting of the Athapaskans with whom I work.

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  1. Mark Brown wrote:

    You were right, Peter’s statements were not accurate. When you consider the costs of camp food, the slight shelters that are used, the price of an ATV, a snow machine, a sled and sled materials, munitions, a boat if necessary, and other materials, the monoplolized cost of transport by barge and air to have these supplies shipped to the Arctic, especially to areas like Kugluktuk, Kugaaruk, Gjoa Haven, Holman, Taloyoak and other places; the high cost of fuel; the unpredicatability and unreliability of ice passages due to changes in climate; the unknowns involved in changing migration patterns; the loss of traditional foods in the northern diets which has led to diabetes and other new diseases; the opportunity cost of not taking on a labour position with a local mining or exploration company at a rate of 80-100k per year; the loss of culture which has something to due with incredibly high suicide rates amongst youth; the loss of social capital that has been slowly leading to a fragmentation of traditional community adhesion; and on and on…You are right, 60k may be inaccurate…Peter has greatly underestimated his costs…

    Monday, December 4, 2006 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  2. Mark … fascinating. Thanks for the correction. I have fallen guilty to a limited view of what hunting requires in that part of the world. It’s amazing anyone can afford to do it.

    Monday, December 4, 2006 at 2:52 pm | Permalink