Adaptation to climate change in glaciated mountain regions

2014 August 14

Graham McDowell, Eleanor Stephenson, James Ford. Find PDF here.

Abstract

Understanding of the human dimensions of climate change (HDCC) in glaciated mountain regions is limited by a deficit in systematically collated information on where, to what stressors, by whom, at what scale, and with what effect adaptation is occurring. This paper presents a systematic literature review of the recent English language peer-reviewed scholarship on adaptation in glaciated mountain regions. 4050 potentially relevant articles were examined, with 36 included for full review. Results indicate that scholarly investigation into adaptation in glaciated mountains is presently limited to only 40 % of countries with alpine glaciation. Seventy-four discrete adaptation initiatives were identified, with most occurring in Peru (28 %), Nepal (22 %) and India (17 %). Many documented adaptations were initiated in response to intersecting stressors related to cryospheric change and socio-economic development; were autonomous and initiated in reaction to experienced climatic stimuli; and were carried out at the individual, family, or community scale. The study contributes to an emerging literature tracking on-the-ground adaptation processes and outcomes, and identifies a need to raise the profile of human adaptation in glaciated mountain regions within the HDCC scholarship. A research agenda for addressing key knowledge gaps and questions is developed, providing a framework for future investigation.

Nunamin Illihakvia featured in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Inuktitut magazine

2014 July 24
The Health Canada funded Nunamin Illihakvia project in Ulukhaktok was featured in the new edition of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Inuktitut magazine, on pages 26-31. From the article:

“On a January morning, the headlights of a skidoo zigzag foxlike near Ulukhaktok. Like his father and grandfather before him, Adam Kolohouk Kudlak finds solace on the sea ice and appreciation for the sustenance it provides him, his family and community. Nattiq (ringed seal) were the staple for Inuit now living in Ulukhaktok, the lifeline that enabled Inuit to live in the region; a lifeline that Kolohouk continues to hold onto and strives to pass to younger generations.

Ulukhaktomuit have always hunted seals in the winter, however, residents of this small hamlet on the west coast of Victoria Island in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories have undergone profound socio-economic and political changes in the last half-century. These changes have dramatically altered their lives and livelihoods, including their relationship with nattiq.”

Continue reading online here or download a PDF version


Mya Sherman interview with the Observatorio Cambio Climático in Peru (in Spanish)

2014 July 17

MA student Mya Sherman was recently interviewed in Peru by the Observatorio Cambio Climático about her masters work. The interview was originally published here.

Seguridad alimentaria indígena y cambio climático

Entrevista a Mya Sherman,Universidad de McGill, Canadá.

Diversos estudios advierten que el cambio climático puede poner en riesgo la seguridad alimentaria de las poblaciones mas vulnerables. El último reporte del IPCC, sobre impactos, adaptación y vulnerabilidad ante el cambio climático, advierte sobre un posible menor rendimiento de la agricultura a nivel global, que se vería agravado por el aumento de la demanda de productos alimentarios. Además, aumentaría la intensidad de eventos extremos como sequías e inundaciones, que afectan la producción de alimentos.

En el Perú, se requiere desarrollar más investigación sobre este tema, por eso son importantes iniciativas como el programa de investigación: “Salud Indígena y Adaptación al Cambio Climático”, desarrollado conjuntamente  por la Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredía en alianza con la Universidad canadiense McGill.Mya Sherman, estudiante de Maestría en Geografía en la Universidad de McGill ha desarrollado su tesis en torno al tema “Vulnerabilidad y capacidad adaptativa de sistemas alimentarios comunitarios en la Amazonía peruana”. A continuación ella nos explica en qué consistió esta investigación, sus principales hallazgos y recomendaciones.

- ¿En qué consistió la investigación que has desarrollado?

Como parte de mi maestría quería hacer mi tesis con la comunidad Shipiba de Panaillo, que está ubicada en el distrito de Callería, provincia de Coronel Portillo en el departamento de Ucayali. Me interesa mucho el tema de la seguridad alimentaria, porque va a ser afectada por el cambio climático, y en otros estudios hemos identificado que para esta comunidad en particular, su seguridad alimentaria puede estar en riesgo. Específicamente decidí estudiar el fenómeno de inundaciones, por que es el evento climático que afecta más a esta comunidad. Durante las estaciones de lluvia se registran muchas inundaciones, que dañan todos sus cultivos. Yo quería entender como afectan las inundaciones a su seguridad alimentaria, sobre todo porque se pronostica que en el futuro serán mas frecuentes y severas. Esto es preocupante, por que si ya están teniendo impactos negativos en la actualidad, puede ser peor en el futuro.

Los habitantes de Panaillo reportan que las inundaciones han aumentado su duración e intensidad en los últimos años, y que las lluvias son cada vez más impredecibles. Además, han aumentado las temperaturas durante la estación seca, y todo esto complica la actividad agrícola. La pesca tambiénse ha visto afectada, no solo por las alteraciones climáticas, sino también porque muchos pescadores locales  utilizan prácticas prohibidas como el uso de veneno (barbasco) y de redes más grandes de lo permitido. Esto ha causado una reducción en la cantidad y diversidad de peces. También se han producido cambios en el econosistema amazónico como consecuencia de la expansión agrícola,la deforestación, minería y tala ilegal, entre otros  factores.

En tu investigación haces mención no solo a factores biofísicos sino también a factores socioeconómicos, ¿podrías hablarnos sobre esto?

Lo que he encontrado es que estos factores biofísicos, como las inundaciones y las sequías, atacan a la salud y a la seguridad alimentaria; pero los factores socioeconómicos, están agravando la situación de la población. Esto incluye sobre todo el aumento de la dependencia respecto a los ingresos monetarios para comprar alimentos y otros productos para su sustento. Otro problema grave se da con las industrias extractivas, que están generando cambios en los ecosistemas de la selva.

Otro factor que he identificado es que la institucionalidad en la zona de estudio es muy precaria. Hay presencia de instituciones del Estado, ONG, compañías de gas y otras, pero presentan problemas de comunicación y articulación, uso de fondos o de corrupción incluso. Hay deficiencias relacionadas con la memoria institucional, debido a que cada 4 años se cambian autoridades, y muchas veces no dejan documentos para la próxima gestión. Entonces hay una perdida de información y de capacidades. Esto se manifiesta cuando hay inundaciones, ya que las instituciones no cuentan con la experiencia, ni los conocimientos para manejarlos, esto es algo preocupante.

Sin embargo, también has encontrado que los habitantes de Panaillo han implementado algunas estrategias de adaptación

Tradicionalmente, la preservación de alimentos ha sido una estrategia importante para garantizar la seguridad alimentaria en Panaillo durante la temporada de lluvias en que ocurren las inundaciones. El pescado ahumado o salado puede ser consumido semanas despues de haber sido procesado. Sin embargo, cuando los lagos se secan muchos peces se pudren, ya que las familias no pueden transportar grandes cantidades de peces para ser procesados o no tienen tiempo ni  la sal necesaria para la preservación.

La yuca también suele preservarse como fariña y puede durar meses, pero las familias de Panaillo muchas veces no pueden procesar la yuca si no cuentan con un excedente y con la mano de obra necesaria. Tampoco pueden hacerlo cuando la inundación se presenta antes de la cosecha o cuando el producto no puede secarse apropiadamente por la excesiva humedad. Además, es preocupante  porque los jóvenes en la comunidad ahora no saben como hacer fariña porque este concimiento no esta siendo trasmitido  entre las generaciones. Otra estrategia utilzada es el almacenamiento de alimentos y semillas, pero se presentan dificultades como no contar con espacio necesario, las plagas y que las semillas no secan adecuadamente.

Que recomendaciones podrías dar que se puedan incorporar a las políticas publicas o a los lineamientos de acción de las instituciones privadas?

Hay varias recomendaciones, lo más importante para mi es la prevención en el manejo de desastres, lo que se ve más en el campo es que hay una respuesta después de un desastre, pero se debería mejorar la prevención.  Si las comunidades nativas tienen más ingresos económicos y una agricultura mas resiliente, su capacidad adaptativa mejorará y ellos mismos van a poder manejar los desastres naturales. La recomendación sería desarrollar la pesca, agricultura, artesanías y generar otros ingresos en estas comunidades. Las instituciones y las comunidades necesitan comunicar y trabajar juntas en esto.

CCARG and the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA

2014 July 17

CCARG has teamed up with the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA to provide access to raw data for the adaptation tracking research reported in Lesnikowski et al 2011, Lesnikowski et al 2013, Lesnikwoski et al in press, and Berrang-Ford et al (2014).

“Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” video now available online

2014 July 15

The “Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” video is now available online. “Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” was an Ulukhaktok Community Corporation (UCC) led project funded by Health Canada in partnership with researchers from McGill University, the University of Guelph, and the University of the Sunshine Coast. The project brought together young Inuit adults with experienced hunters, sewers and elders to learn how to make equipment, travel on the sea ice and hunt seals in the winter, prepare seal skins for sewing, and sew traditional seal skin clothing.

For more information on this and similar projects, please visit ikadapt.ca or jamesford.ca/research/nunamin-illihakvia

CCARG researchers contribute to new report: “Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation”

2014 June 25

Affiliated CCARG researcher, Dr. Tristan Pearce, and Dr. James Ford both contributed to a new assessment report from Natural Resources Canada, “Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation”, as a lead author and contributing author respectively. Below is a description of the report, which you can find by clicking here.

Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation is a 2014 update to the 2008 science assessment report, From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate. During this time period, our understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation in Canada has increased, both as a result of new research and through practical experience.  Led by Natural Resources Canada, the development of this report involved over 90 authors and 115 expert reviewers, and synthesized over 1500 recent publications.

Summer Fieldwork in Iqaluit: A day in the life of MA student Anna Bunce

2014 June 16

Here’s a look at MA student Anna Bunce’s daily schedule during fieldwork in Iqaluit.

Hello from Iqaluit!

As I’m now halfway through my fieldwork in Iqaluit I thought I’d give readers a little peek into an average day in my Iqaluit life doing research.

8:30 am: Wake up
With the high latitude the sun is up almost 24 hours a day in Iqaluit. When the sun isn’t out the town is still bathed in that evening twighlight that produces enough light to keep you from getting sleepy. This has resulted in what I’m terming “sun-lag” and has made sleeping a bit tricky. Thanks to my trusty sleep mask and a black garbage bag over the window I’ve been getting back into a more regular sleeping pattern.

9:30 am: Out the door and off to the library
With wireless internet being difficult to get a hold of at the moment the Library and Visitor’s Center has become my newest morning hang out. I like to sit across from the giant taxidermied polar bear – nothing like a little adrenaline rush to get you answering emails in the morning

11 am: Interview
I’ve scheduled an interview for this morning from the day before and so I head out from the library to the interviewee’s house. I enjoy getting to interview people in their homes. Talking with someone about the changes in their life and how they’ve experienced change in their own home gives such wonderful context (and hopefully makes them feel more comfortable).

12:30: Lunch
From 12:00 -1:00 everything closes in Iqaluit so that people can go home and spend lunch with their families. Kids are picked up from school, parents zoom home from the office and from 11:50 to 12:10 and 12:50 to 1:10 Iqaluit experiences some serious traffic along the main roads in town. Interviews certainly aren’t going to happen during this time, so lunch has become a nice break for me as well.

2:00 Interview
Someone I interviewed had recommended I speak to someone else. After a phone call we’ve set up an interview that lasts for about an hour. I leave feeling very fortunate that people are willing to share their life stories with me. If there is one thing I’ve found among all Iqalummiut that I’ve met is a willingness to teach if you are willing to learn.

3:30 Back to the Library
The library has opened for the afternoon so I head back to make use of the internet. Sitting in the chairs looking out at the still frozen over Frobisher Bay I’m convinced Iqaluit’s library has one of the best views around. Unfortunately a fire that has been burning at the city’s dump for the last 3 weeks is marring the view with a funnel of smoke, making it clear why town residents have started referring to the dump fire as “dumpcano”.

5:00 Sewing time
After the work day ends I head over to my friend Naomi’s house. She has been teaching me how to sew seal skin mitts and slippers and her house is becoming my second home. We chat and sew and I stab my thumb a few times with the sharp glover needle used to sew seal skin. I’m patched up with some Barbie bandaids courtesy of Naomi’s daughter Dosha and get back to sewing. Naomi is working on some summer amauti’s (a traditional Inuit clothing item with a large space in the back meant for caring small children that is still very popular among the mother’s of Iqaluit) and she’s out of rickrack to line the edges with. We head out to Arctic Ventures to pick some up and, unsurprisingly, bump into a few friends of Naomi’s. After catching up it’s back home and back to sewing.

10:30 Bed
After a successful evening of sewing and chatting it’s time for bed. Back in my house I have to do some garbage bag re-adjusting to keep out the light, but the overcast weather is helping keep it a bit darker. Tomorrow is another day – let the research continue.

Photo: IHACC team at the CAG annual conference

2014 June 9

IHACC team at the CAG annual conference special IDRC session

IHACC Results Sharing Meeting: Iqaluit Health Survey Results

2014 June 9

We would like to invite you to attend the following IHACC Event:

Results Sharing Meeting: Iqaluit Health Survey Results

Topics: Acute Gastrointestinal Illness and Food Security

Date: Monday June 16th, 2014

Time: 9:00AM – 3:30PM at the Nunavut Research Institute

See the flyer below for more information.

Please RSVP to: harpers@uoguelph.ca

For more detailed agenda information: jtruong@uoguelph.ca

If you have any questions, let us know!

Sherilee Harper, Victoria Edge, James Ford, and the IHACC team

What we learned from the Dust Bowl: lessons in science, policy, and adaptation

2014 June 9

Robert A. McLeman, Juliette Dupre, Lea Berrang Ford, James Ford, Konrad Gajewski, Gregory Marchildon. Find the open access PDF here.

This article provides a review and synthesis of scholarly knowledge of Depression-era droughts on the North American Great Plains, a time and place known colloquially as the Dust Bowl era or the Dirty Thirties. Recent events, including the 2008 financial crisis, severe droughts in the US corn belt, and the release of a popular documentary film, have spawned a resurgence in public interest in the Dust Bowl. Events of the Dust Bowl era have also proven in recent years to be of considerable interest to scholars researching phenomena related to global environmental change, including atmospheric circulation, drought modeling, land management, institutional behavior, adaptation processes, and human migration. In this review, we draw out common themes in terms of not only what natural and social scientists have learned about the Dust Bowl era itself, but also how insights gained from the study of that period are helping to enhance our understanding of climate–human relations more generally.

Mya Sherman’s thesis “Vulnerability and adaptive capacity of community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon: A case study from Panaillo” and results dissemination

2014 June 3

Congratulations to Mya Sherman on the completion of her Master of Arts thesis titled “Vulnerability and adaptive capacity of  community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon: A case study from Panaillo”. Mya will be returning to Peru as part of a results dissemination trip. She will be presenting her results to Panaillo as well as local institutions in Yarinacocha, Pucallpa and Lima. Mya will be distributing the following pamphlet on this trip, “Inundaciones, el mercado, y las instituciones”.

Abstract

Rainfall variability and related hydrological disasters are serious threats to agricultural production in developing countries according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since projections of climate change indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of climatic hazards like flooding and droughts, it is increasingly important to understand communities’ adaptive capacity to extreme hydrological events. This research uses a case-study approach to characterize the current vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the food system to a climatic hazard in Panaillo, a flood-prone indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon. Participatory methods were utilized to examine how biophysical and socioeconomic factors constrain or enable local adaptive capacity to climatic hazards over time. Seasonal flooding was shown to strongly influence agriculture and fishing cycles. Panaillo residents have developed several adaptive strategies to adjust to hydrological extremes, such as food preservation and the cultivation of fast-growing crops on riverbeds. However, Panaillo residents generally lack the necessary human, physical, social and natural resources to effectively employ their adaptive mechanisms as a result of major social and environmental changes in the area. The temporal analogue of the extreme 2010-2011 floods highlighted the multiple drivers of vulnerability that exist at different spatial and temporal scales. Economic development, low institutional capacity, climate variability, and the assimilation social model in Peru all have profound effects on the food system and health by affecting the ways in which adaptive strategies and livelihoods are practiced. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate these socioeconomic and biophysical drivers and further compromise community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon in the future.

Continue reading by clicking here.

Film documents impact of climate change on Labrador Inuit

2014 June 2

As originally posted on cbc.ca

Film documents impact of climate change on Labrador Inuit

CBC News Posted: Jun 02, 2014 9:21 AM CT Last Updated: Jun 02, 2014 10:06 AM CT

Noah Nochasak, one of the researchers on the film from Nain, Labrador, in a still taken from 'Lament for the Land.' The film, which documents the impact of climate change on the southernmost Inuit communities in the world, has been met with an emotional reaction. (Courtesy Ashlee Cunsolo Willox)

A new film about the effects of climate change in Nunatsiavut, in Labrador, was met with an emotional reaction at it’s international premiere.

Researcher Ashlee Cunsolo Willox began working on 'Lament for the Land' since January 2013. (Courtesy Ashlee Cunsolo Willox)

“A lot of people in the audience cried throughout the film and were very emotionally moved,” says Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities at Cape Breton University.

Lament for the Land documents how changes are affecting Inuit, both culturally and emotionally in the southernmost Inuit communities in the world.

“We had a number of people after come up and just say how connected they felt to the film and how much they learned and how they suddenly realized this deep connection they had to the land and the ice and the snow.”

The screening took place at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Prince George, B.C., last month.

“The ones that meant the most to us were the other circumpolar indigenous peoples who were in the room, who came up after and said, ‘You know, that’s exactly how we’re feeling in Norway or Alaska or Russia.’ That it was very reflective of their experiences and their love of the land and how things were changing for them.”

Cunsolo Willox is the principal investigator of the Inuit Mental Health and Adaptations to Climate Change (IMHACC) project, from which the film emerged.

Five Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut — Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet ​— provided feedback during the film’s editing process.

“We now move forward, kind of feeling that the story that we’re sharing is the story that people in Labrador and in Nunatsiavut want to share, about what they want people to know.”

Cunsolo Willox hopes the film will add a human factor to the issue of climate change, and be educational for people who haven’t had the privilege of travelling in northern Canada.

‘Like a release’

Inez Shiwak has witnessed climate change first-hand. She hopes 'Lament for the Land' will show Inuit in other communities that they are not alone in feeling its effects. (Courtesy Ashlee Cunsolo Willox)

Inez Shiwak has witnessed climate change first-hand. She hopes ‘Lament for the Land’ will show Inuit in other communities that they are not alone in feeling its effects. (Courtesy Ashlee Cunsolo Willox)

Inez Shiwak works with the “My Word: Storytelling and Digital Media Lab” at the Rigolet Inuit Community Government and works on the same research project that became the basis for Lament for the Land.

For her, climate change is personal.

“When I was growing up, by Halloween, we had snow… but as climate change is affecting us more we can’t get out on our Ski-Doos until January.”

Shiwak describes the film screening as “like a release, because other communities were feeling this too. Not just us.”

She says many Inuit are depressed since they spend fewer months on the land, and hopes the film can help other places get ahead of some of these problems.

Cunsolo Willox plans to show the film at some international conferences this summer. She’s also planning smaller film tours around Atlantic Canada.

Eventually, Cunsolo Willox hopes the film, and all of the research that went into it, will be made available online, for free.

Graham McDowell at The World Mountain Forum

2014 June 2
The World Mountain Forum – Cusco, Peru, May 22 – 24, 2014

Participants at the World Mountain Forum showcased and discussed available local, regional, and global experience in mountain research and sustainable development. The conference produced insights that feed into global initiatives such as the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability; that contribute to the main global sustainable development processes, including those related to the Rio and the RAMSAR conventions; and that support the development of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the future climate deal that COP20 will advance.

CCARG expert adviser Graham McDowell presented a study that systematically assessed what is known about human adaptation to climate change in glaciated mountain regions (e.g. adaptation where, by whom, to what stressors, by what means, and with what effect). The study contributes to an emerging literature tracking on-the-ground adaptation processes and outcomes, and helps inform research/policy agendas for addressing key knowledge gaps. Accordingly, the presentation was extremely relevant to conversation at the World Mountain Forum, where it was well received by researchers and policy makers alike.


Flicker photo stream from the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infoandina/sets/72157644460439418

CCARG in the News: ARCTIC: As ice sheets melt, communities worry that health effects are overlooked

2014 June 2
ClimateWire
An E&E Publishing Service

ARCTIC: As ice sheets melt, communities worry that health effects are overlooked  (Thursday, May 29, 2014)

Henry Gass, E&E reporter

Strong winds fractured a sheet of melting ice near Barrow, Alaska, one April afternoon, cutting a three-man whaling crew adrift in the Arctic Ocean. A boat had to be dispatched to rescue them, and according to local observers, the narrowly averted tragedy wasn’t a surprise.

“One captain predicted this to happen, so perhaps more experienced whalers are adapting to the unpredictability of young sea ice and avoiding traveling during high winds,” concluded a report posted after the event to the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network. “But even experienced hunters can get into trouble.”

Hosted by the Center for Climate and Health at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, the LEO network catalogs ongoing environmental and public health changes in northern communities, from treacherous sea ice conditions to new, exotic diseases. There isn’t much research in those fields, so across the Arctic, scientists are relying on anecdotal evidence from self-reported incidents like the whaling team rescue to piece together ways that climate change is threatening the health of already-vulnerable northern communities.

The Arctic has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius since the mid-1960s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wreaking havoc on local communities in ways that scientists have been carefully documenting.

“We have a huge body of knowledge, local observations, climatological records, meteorological records, that are saying climate change is happening [in the Arctic],” said Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, a professor of community health at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “What we don’t have is an evidence base for how people are adapting and what that can mean in the context of health.”

Of Hot Pockets and alcohol

“H-E-R-O-N. Heron?” asked Charlotte Wolfrey, mayor of Rigolet, a small Inuit community on the coast of Labrador, in the Canadian Arctic.

Wolfrey had never seen a blue heron until recent summers, and she wasn’t sure how to spell it. All she knew was that they were now ranging up to Rigolet — a town about as close to the Greenland border as the United States — and disrupting the local ecology, destroying eggs the local Inuit usually gather and cook themselves.

Health and food are inextricably tied, and perhaps the most visible health impact of climate change in the Arctic is diet.

Marauding southern birds aren’t the only threat to traditional Arctic food supplies, Wolfrey said. In fact, the main health threat may not be the advance of new animals, but the retreat of sea ice. With the ice forming much later and appearing much earlier in the warming climate, it’s as if Arctic communities are getting shut out of their own supermarkets.

Cunsolo Willox said it is “very well-documented” that decreased access to hunting has forced more northerners to store-bought food, which has been linked to increasing rates of diabetes and obesity. Michael Brubaker, director of the Center for Climate and Health at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, agreed.

“If there’s no caribou in your freezer, what’s taking its place?” Brubaker asked. “If it’s Hot Pockets, that’s not a healthy alternative.”

The physical health risks of climate change in the Arctic are expansive. Brubaker pointed to increases in rickets, a vitamin D deficiency and waterborne diseases. Some people fall through flimsy ice — a few to their deaths — and most communities are afraid to venture out and hunt on the ice for fear they’ll never come back.

The effects cascade, Wolfrey said. Unpredictable, melting ice prevents hunting, which leads to an unhealthy diet and other unhealthy pursuits while people are “restricted” in town.

“When we’re restricted from going out there, sometimes people choose to drink more and do more drugs,” Wolfrey said.

Reopening old wounds

Research on climate change-related health effects in the Arctic is young, and Cunsolo Willox noted the lack of statistical evidence describing increases in problems like diabetes, drug use and fatal crashes through sea ice. What scientists do have — as evidenced by the LEO Network and Cunsolo Willox’s study — is plenty of anecdotal evidence in need of further documenting and organizing.

And the issues in northern communities that need attention may date back far earlier than the first observations of climate change.

“Often what makes people vulnerable to climate-related health risks has little to do with the actual climate, but rather is reflective of underlying social, cultural, and economic factors,” said a study co-authored by Cunsolo Willox and published online last month in theAmerican Journal of Public Health.

Rigolet has an 80 percent unemployment rate, and unemployment across the Arctic averages around 30 to 40 percent, according to Wolfrey. The Inuit have the highest suicide rate in Canada — especially among young people, Wolfrey said — and the communities carry deep-seated trauma that’s transferred from generation to generation.

Towns have been forcibly relocated, and recent generations of children were taken in their early teens to residential schools, government-funded schools operated through the 19th and 20th centuries where Native students “lived in substandard conditions and endured physical and emotional abuse,” according to the CBC.

The psychological impacts live with the Inuit today, Wolfrey said. Her mother, who grew up in a residential school, was “disconnected” and never showed her much physical affection. Wolfrey was sent to a school in eighth grade, worked all day, cried herself to sleep every night and ran away after six months. Her mother had been so distant, she fled to her grandfather’s house.

“I carried some of that with me into my first chance at parenting,” Wolfrey said. “There’s a big ripple effect down through the generations.”

The mental and physical isolation wrought by climate change only compounds this emotional trauma, she said. The Inuit would escape out on the ice, spending a few days communing with nature and getting back to their roots. If they want to do that now, they risk falling through thin ice into freezing water.

The Cunsolo Willox study called for, among other things, “an inexpensive, quick, and effective starting point to enhance the monitoring and control of climate-sensitive health outcomes.” And while researchers start to identify and treat the health problems of climate change in the Arctic, communities there are already trying to adapt.

“We need to do more mental health awareness and mental health programming, and that’s climate change or not,” Wolfrey said.

“There are a lot of things that are changing, and we’re trying to adapt,” she added.

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Article: Pearce goes through Australia to get home to Prince George

2014 May 29
Posted On 27 May 2014 | By : 
University of Guelph graduate student Colleen Parker, left, points to Guelph while Tristan Pearce, one of her professors at Guelph, points to the locationof the University of the Sunshine Coast, in Australia, where he is currently teaching. Pearce, originally from Prince George, and Parker were in the city last week for the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences. Allan WISHART/Free Press

University of Guelph graduate student Colleen Parker, left, points to Guelph while Tristan Pearce, one of her professors at Guelph, points to the locationof the University of the Sunshine Coast, in Australia, where he is currently teaching. Pearce, originally from Prince George, and Parker were in the city last week for the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences. Allan WISHART/Free Press

Tristan Pearce took the long way home last week.

Pearce, who was born and raised in Prince George and got a BA from UNBC in 2003, was back in the city for the International Congress of the Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS). He came to the congress from Australia, where he is currently working at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“It’s about 45 minutes north of Brisbane,” he said. “I was working at the University of Guelph, and much of my work is with indigenous peoples and their responses to climate change.

“Sunshine Coast was recruiting and I said to myself, ‘What an opportunity to spend time in a new environment’.”

ICASS gave Pearce a chance to catch up with some of the other people working in the field, as well as one student he is still working with – although at a long distance.

Colleen Parker is one of Pearce’s graduate students at Guelph, and she was attending ICAss as well.

“I’m doing a posting here, making a presentation, but mostly I’m just taking it all in. I’m going to be doing my own field research in the Arctic, on Victoria Island. I was there is the summer, and I’ll be going back in the fall.”

Pearce said the fall is a key time to study the effects of climate change on the indigenous people.

“It’s a key harvesting time for fishing and hunting. It’s very important to them to store enough food for over the winter.

“It’s also a make-or-break time for them to get enough money for the equipment they need for hunting and fishing.”

Pearce says climate change is having an effect on the Inuit people in the Arctic.

“The caribou are changing their patterns of migration, so they’re not in the same places they were. It makes it harder to track them.”

He’s been keeping in touch with Parker on her project, although she says it can a bit idfficult.

“It’s a 14-hour time difference, so you have to make sure you know when you’re going to be using Skype or some other way to keep in touch.”

Pearce was using ICASS as a way-station on a trip to the Arctic.

“I usually work three or four months in Australia, then come back to Canada. From here, I’m going to the Arctic. Colleen will come up later in the summer.”

He says the important thing he is trying to do in his work, both in the Arctic and Australia, is talk to the indigenous people.

“The traditional lore of their people is being missed in the literature on climate change. The Inuit people have lived in the Arctic for more than 4,000 years. They have a rich tradition of how things used to be done and how they have changed.”

Pearce feels the best way to do research such as his is to talk to the people involved.

“It’s a question of doing research on people vs. research with people.”