Notes from the field: Reflections on a recent trip to Ulukhaktok

2014 April 22

As originally posted on ikadapt.ca

Departing from Ulukhaktok just after dawn for a hunting trip on the sea ice, March 2014.

Two IK-ADAPT team members, Lesya Nakoneczny and Ellie Stephenson, were recently in Ulukhaktok assisting with theNunamin Illihakvia/ Learning from the Land program, which wrapped up March 30th 2014.

The final month of Nunamin Illihakvia saw a flurry of activity as hunting trips took place on the sea ice, sewing participants worked hard to complete children’s sealskin parkas, and participants shared their experiences of the program in interviews. More than 150 people came out to an end-of-program feast to enjoy the food and admire the sealskin clothing and tools that participants had made. Attendees also had the opportunity to see an advance screening of a video about Nunamin Illihakvia, which included footage shot by program participants and assistants, as well as Lesya and USC honours student Rowan Schindler. Ellie and Lesya worked with coordinators Laverna Klengenberg and Susan Kaodlak, IK-ADAPT Community Adaptation Leader Adam Kudlak, and many program participants to document these activities and conduct program evaluation interviews.

Though Nunamin Illihakvia is officially over, we look forward to sharing and celebrating what it accomplished! In the coming weeks we will be releasing the final version of the Nunamin Illihakvia project video, as well as a photobook and report. We also look forward to sharing details about a new program supporting health and climate change adaptation that is being launched in Ulukhaktok called TUMIVUT: Tracks of our ancestors towards a healthy future, which will carry on the momentum of the Nunamin Illihakvia program.

Here are some of Lesya’s reflections on her time in Ulukhaktok:

Mornings in Ulukhaktok start start calmly with coffee, breakfast and a thorough discussion of the day’s weather. It’s sunny outside when I look at the thermometer, which reads -25C. I wonder out loud if it will be windy today. Winnie, the owner of the B&B where I am staying, tells me to look at the flag across the street. It’s flapping gently. You can see the airport from her living room window, and there is barely a cloud in the sky. Today is another beautiful day in Ulukhaktok.

Every day is busy, and while I head to the Kayutak Center I run through my schedule for the day. I need to go through more of the footage shot by Rowan, an undergraduate student from the University of Sunshine Coast who was here in February. I also have a short video interview planned. All of this filming will culminate in a video about the project, capturing the experience of Nunamin Illihakvia and highlighting the importance of seal for Inuit health in the context of climate change.

Learning while in Ulukhaktok never stops. Every day I am fortunate to learn more about seal hunting and sewing with sealskin. There are sewing classes on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and the ladies are working on sealskin parkas. For most of them this is their first time making a parka out of sealskin, but they are guided by elders to great success. The parkas are shaping up and they look beautiful. As I fumble along making my first pair of sealskin mitts, I fully appreciate the skills required to make warm and durable clothing out of sealskin. I look on as one of the participants puts together the design for her trim, and ask to take a short video of her sewing. Clothing made from seal skin is not only well suited for the climate in the North, but also very fashionable! The ladies handle their creations with care. These and other pieces will be on display at the upcoming community feast and wrap up event, so everyone is working hard to get their parkas finished.

After sewing, Ellie and I walk east to go home. The sunsets here are long and colourful; even though it is after 9pm part of the sky is still glowing blues and purples. As the snow crunches beneath my feet I think about making tea and chatting with Winnie about our days.

CCARG in the Globe and Mail: “The unfrozen north, circa 2067″

2014 April 14

CCARG work was featured in a Globe and Mail article on climate change projections. See the original article here, on the Globe and Mail website.

The unfrozen north, circa 2067

Polar Bear on tabular iceberg, Isabella Bay, Baffin Bay, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. (Ralph Lee Hopkins)

IVAN SEMENIUK

The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Apr. 11 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Apr. 11 2014, 9:47 PM EDT

It’s Dec. 31, 2066, and for a little while the prime minister of Canada is trying not to think too much about a troubled world.

After all, it’s time to celebrate. In a few hours she’ll be on Parliament Hill to usher in the year that Canada turns 200.

As a nod to the past, the event will echo a similar scene that took place exactly a century before when Lester B. Pearson, her distant predecessor, lit the Centennial Flame.

Feeling the weight of history and looking for inspiration, she uses her digital aide to call up the speech Pearson gave that night. But when the file flashes across her sleeve, what catches her eye is the black and white photo that pops up along with the text.

There stands Lester B. in his hat and overcoat on a brisk December night. The snapshot has captured the cloud of breath at his chin while, behind him, officials and flag bearers stand shoulder to shoulder like they’re closing ranks against the winter cold.

What a difference, she thinks. On the eve of Canada’s bicentennial year, Ottawa no longer feels so much like a nordic city. While the capital still experiences blizzards, cold snaps and – increasingly – severe ice storms, there are now long stretches when daytime temperatures are above freezing. Most years, the Rideau Canal is open for skating for just a week or two.

Born in 2014, this future prime minister inhabits the Canada we can expect to see under the highest-emission scenario considered by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest assessment of climate impacts, released on March 31.

On Sunday, the IPCC will release its follow-up report on mitigation, focusing on the emission reductions needed to avoid the worst-case scenario of unchecked climate change. But given the political challenges that stand in the way of co-ordinated international action, it’s worth considering what will happen if, 53 years from now, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is still on the rise.

A climate projection for Canada in 2067 conducted for The Globe and Mail based on the IPCC’s high-emissions scenario paints a picture of a warmer and stormier country. In this possible future, the average global temperature is about 2 degrees Celsius warmer than it was at the beginning of the century. In Ottawa, the change is more like 3.5 degrees. For old-timers, it feels like the city has migrated a few hundred kilometres south.

Ironically, this is the world that international climate negotiators had hoped for when, in 2009, they set two degrees of warming as a global safety limit. If warming could be held to two degrees, the IPCC has said, the worst impact of climate change can be avoided.

But under the IPCC’s high-emissions scenario, two degrees of warming is not good news. Rather than a stable endpoint where global warming tops out, in 2067 it will be a fleeting signpost that humanity blows through on its way to a much hotter planet.

So while 2067 is no climate apocalypse – at least not for Canada – it is a time of growing uneasiness as the unavoidable consequences of a high-emissions future rattle a world already beset by inequality and geopolitical tension.

Whatever issues and worries are keeping Canada’s prime minister awake by then, it’s a good bet that climate change will be one of them.

Floods, wildfires, chablis

While the ability to simulate the atmosphere in massively complex computer programs has improved by leaps and bounds over the past 25 years, anyone hoping to gaze into Canada’s climate crystal ball is confronted with some big unknowns. Chief among them is the question of how far the world will go along its current path before shifting in a meaningful way from fossil fuels – if it ever does.

“We have a lot more faith in what the models are telling us, but the uncertainty comes from not knowing what the greenhouse-gas emissions are going to be,” says Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Research Laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island.

The lab is one of the few places where the outputs of all the world’s major climate models can be readily combined to provide an outlook for specific regions; it is where Dr. Fenech created an outlook for Canada in 2067 for The Globe and Mail.

The general implications for Canada are laid out in the IPCC’s report, including the growing likelihood of extreme heat, flooding and drought in summer and increasingly snow-free winters in much of the country.

But the biggest temperature shifts in Canada, according to Dr. Fenech, will occur when most people aren’t paying attention – in the form of average nighttime lows that are as much as 10 degrees warmer than today. Warmer nights are a hallmark of the growing presence of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. “You could say climate change happens at night,” he says.

Along with the heat will come more precipitation across the whole of Canada – a rise of 6 to 10 per cent annually for the most populated parts of the country. Depending on exactly how and when that precipitation occurs, flooding events like those experienced last year in Calgary and Ontario’s cottage country are expected to become increasingly common.

“Water is a big part of what’s changing in our climate and what’s expected going forward,” says Paul Kovacs, executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), based in London, Ont., and a lead author on the North America chapter of the IPCC report.

When it comes to forests, warmer winters have already increased the survival of various beetles that can infest trees. And despite more precipitation on average, the IPCC notes, the growing severity of dry spells will increase outbreaks of wildfires.

Farmers will feel the impact too – as well as some of the potential benefits of longer growing seasons as temperatures rise. The benefits are undeniable, says Barrie Smit, an emeritus professor of geography at the University of Guelph. Farming will likely push northward in those locations where soils allow it, while the arrival of varieties of grapes and specialty crops previously unable to grow in Canada will be a boon to winemakers, among others.

But the upside may be offset by increased risk elsewhere, particularly on the prairies, where periodic dry spells could mean long-term trouble for grain growers, potentially overwhelming irrigation capacity and driving up prices.

When it comes to farming, “the issue is not average temperature at all. It the frequency and severity of droughts,” Dr. Smit says.

Fortress Canada?

In Canada, the rate of warming will be most pronounced in the North, where Dr. Fenech’s analysis shows average temperatures climbing by 5 to 6 degrees mid-century in a high-emissions scenario. This startling shift will be the nail in the coffin for summer sea ice, and it guarantees profound changes for Arctic wildlife and the people who depend on it as a food source.

“The big thing is how will animal species be affected. … We just don’t really know,” says James Ford, a geographer at McGill University who studies climate change in the North.

At the same time, a warming Arctic will bring opportunities to the North in the form of resource development and jobs. Whether the region comes out ahead will depend on how well it can adapt to changes such as the loss of permafrost. This is a huge matter for a community like Tuktoyaktuk, which is built on a frozen river delta that may all too soon melt away into the sea.

Yet, the biggest climate challenges facing the prime minister in 2067 may be the ones that originate outside Canada.

By then, with a population somewhere around 60 million, Canada will likely be adapting to a warmer world, bearing the costs while enjoying whatever short-term gains aggressive climate change may bring.

But as the planet rapidly warms in the high-emissions scenario just as the world’s population nears 10 billion, the situation for much of the rest of the world will be less rosy.

“That’s when you’re starting to see areas that are already pretty hot pushing the threshold of habitability,” says Damon Matthews, a climate scientist at Concordia University in Montreal.

In the developing world, climate change spells food shortages and extreme poverty as rising sea levels and environmental stress overwhelm countries that do not have the resources to adapt. It is unlikely that Canada, a wealthy northern nation that could well be seen as having played a disproportionate role in causing the climate problem, will escape being drawn into a larger global crisis.

As Canadians cope with the climate’s impact at home, they may also be increasingly called upon to provide direct aid, some form of compensation, or to relieve affected countries by taking in economic refugees. The alternative will be no less troubling – become an isolated fortress while the rest of the world bakes in misery.

During his centennial-year address, Lester Pearson said that Canada had found “unity in diversity,” a model that mankind as a whole would need to emulate “if we are to survive the perils of the nuclear age.”

In 2067, when another prime minister prepares to address the nation, a different set of perils will be in play. On a national scale, it will have altered the weather and changed ways of life. On a global scale, it could challenge the meaning of what it is to be Canadian.

Joanna Petrasek MacDonald presenting at the 6th edition of Under The Weather: Climate Change Research and Justice

2014 April 9

CKUT, The McGill Sustainability Projects Fund, and Climate Justice Montreal present: The 6th edition of Under The Weather: Climate Change Research and Justice

Thursday, April 10th at 7 pm
Rutherford Physics Room 112 at McGill University (3600 Rue University)
featuring Joanna Petrasek MacDonald of the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group

A Necessary Voice: Youth Engagement in Climate Change Policy, Research, and Action

Joanna is currently completing her Master’s thesis at McGill on the impacts of climate change on the mental health and well-being of Inuit youth in Nunatsiavut, Labrador and the connection between participatory video and youth resilience. Her interests in youth and climate change stem from a background in climate activism, including having attended both COP15 and COP16 for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a Canadian Youth Delegate, as well as serving on the Executive Committee for the Sierra Youth Coalition. Come hear about how Joanna has bridged the gap between activism and academia in youth-based climate justice organizing and research!

Admission is free and the talk will be broadcasted LIVE on CKUT 90.3 FM or online at http://ckut.ca/c/ during Grey Matters.

For more info on the project, visit undertheweather.ckut.ca or the event Facebook page.

Stakeholder engagement in adaptation interventions: an evaluation of projects in developing nations

2014 April 7

Mya H. Sherman and James Ford. Find PDF here.

Abstract

Institution-oriented, top-down and community-oriented, bottom-up stakeholder approaches are evaluated for their ability to enable or constrain the implementation of adaptation in developing nations. A systematic review approach is used evaluate the project performance of 18 adaptation projects by three of the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) adaptation programmes (the Strategic Priority for Adaptation (SPA), the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), and the National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPA)) according to effectiveness, efficiency, equity, legitimacy, flexibility, sustainability, and replicability. The ten SPA projects reviewed performed highest overall, especially with regards to efficiency, legitimacy, and replicability. The five SCCF projects performed the highest in equity, flexibility, and sustainability, and the three NAPA-related projects were the highest-performing projects with regards to effectiveness. A comparison of top-down and bottom-up approaches revealed that community stakeholder engagement in project design and implementation led to higher effectiveness, efficiency, equity, flexibility, legitimacy, sustainability, and replicability. Although low institutional capacity constrained both project success and effective community participation, projects that hired international staff to assist in implementation experienced higher overall performance. These case studies also illustrate how participatory methods can fail to genuinely empower or involve communities in adaptation interventions in both top-down and bottom-up approaches. It is thus crucial to carefully consider stakeholder engagement strategies in adaptation interventions.

Policy relevance

While adaptation is now firmly on the policy and research agenda, actual interventions to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience remain in their infancy, and there is limited information on the factors that influence the successful implementation of adaptation in developing areas. Engaging stakeholders in assessing vulnerability and implementing adaptation interventions is widely regarded to be an important factor for adaptation implementation and success. However, no study has evaluated the effects of stakeholder engagement in the actual implementation of adaptation initiatives. Effective stakeholder engagement is challenging, especially in a developing nation setting, due to high levels of poverty, inadequate knowledge on adaptation options, weak institutions, and competing interests to address more immediate problems related to poverty and underdevelopment. In this context, this article documents and characterizes stakeholder engagement in adaptation interventions supported through the GEF, examining how top-down or bottom-up stakeholder approaches enable or constrain project performance.

Nunamin Illihakvia featured in Tusaayaksat Magazine

2014 April 4

The Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land project was featured in the magazine Tusaayaksat, whose motto is: “Celebrating Inuvialuit People, Culture and Heritage.”

"Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land" in Tusaayaksat Magazine

“It is November, and Ulukhaktok is on blizzard warning tonight. Visibility is low as we trudge against winds up to 70km/hr and hard bits of snow whips into our eyes, we arrive at the youth center where Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land sewing classes are held. The door opens onto a scene that warms our heart immediately – there is laughter in the room, and elder Margaret Notaina is sitting on the floor with young mothers Susie Nigiyok and Denise Okheena, between them a sewing machine and a scatter of wolfskins. Avery, Denise’s two year old daughter is imitating the elder and her mother, using her hands to press gently down the hairs on a wolf pelt for the amaruq that Denise is making. An amaruq is the sunburst wolf fur trim on the hood of an Inuvialuit parka, and Denise is looking forward to making her first one for her baby.

Annie Inuktalik, instructor and elder known for her exquisite sewing dips a straight teeth comb into water, gently taming the strands of wolf fur that are astray. “You comb it like this, to make sure that the length of the hairs are even,” she shares.

“The amaruq is made of 3 layers of fur, with a canvas base. We use wolf furs with dark tips on the outside layer, the middle layer is lighter, and the back layer too. If the skin is not straight but it’s already dry we need to scrape it so it’s easier to work with. We fold the wolfskin right down the middle. We cut the long hair right by the edges and use that. We use a measuring piece to cut little pieces of the same size, and we cut off the ends so it should be all even. You can make two ruffs with one skin.”

In the room, there are other young mothers, most of them learning this skill for the first time.

Continue reading here.

Posted here with permission.

Anomalous climatic conditions during winter 2010–2011 and vulnerability of the traditional Inuit food system in Iqaluit, Nunavut

2014 April 3

Sara Statham, James Ford, Lea Berrang-Ford, Marie-Pierre Lardeau, William Gough and Rick Siewierskia. Find PDF here.

Abstract

This study examines how climatic extremes during winter 2010–2011 affected the traditional food system in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This winter was anomalous throughout the Canadian Arctic, and manifested itself locally by warmer temperatures and decreased ice coverage. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with hunters (n = 25), a fixed question survey with public housing residents (n = 100), as well as analysis of remotely sensed sea-ice charts and temperature data from the Iqaluit weather station, this work identifies and characterises the extreme climatic conditions experienced, their subsequent effects on Iqaluit’s traditional food system, and coping strategies used for dealing with food-related stresses. The results show increased environmental stress on the traditional food system compared to previous years. Freeze up occurred 59 days later than the average for the 1982–2010 period, while mean annual temperatures were 4.9ºC higher than the climatological mean, which negatively impacted hunters’ harvests and residents’ food supplies. Coping strategies alleviated some stresses, but adaptability was limited for financially insecure households reliant on income support. The study shows that when challenging socioeconomic conditions, such as those associated with public housing, are coupled with significant environmental stress, such as experienced during that winter, the vulnerability of the traditional food system is exacerbated. We suggest that winter 2010–2011 can be used as an analogue for exploring future food system vulnerabilities, with climate models projecting similar conditions in the coming decades.

IHACC Video

2014 March 26

As originally posted on ihacc.ca

Want to know more about IHACC, its research themes and the regions where the projects are underway? Lesya Naconeczny and Kevin Landry have worked, in partnership with the Project Management Committee, on putting together this 30 minute video which gives an in-depth overview of what IHACC is working on.

What drives national adaptation? A global assessment

2014 March 24

Lea Berrang-Ford, James D. Ford, Alexandra Lesnikowski, Carolyn Poutiainen, Magda Barrera, S. Jody Heymann. Acess PDF here.

Abstract:
That the climate is changing and societies will have to adapt is now unequivocal, with adaptation becoming a core focus of climate policy. Our understanding of the challenges, needs, and opportunities for climate change adaptation has advanced significantly in recent years yet remains limited. Research has identified and theorized key determinants of adaptive capacity and barriers to adaptation, and more recently begun to track adaptation in practice. Despite this, there is negligible research investigating whether and indeed if adaptive capacity is translating into actual adaptation action. Here we test whether theorized determinants of adaptive capacity are associated with adaptation policy outcomes at the national level for 117 nations. We show that institutional capacity, in particular measures of good governance, are the strongest predictors of national adaptation policy. Adaptation at the national level is limited in countries with poor governance, and in the absence of good governance other presumed determinants of adaptive capacity show limited effect on adaptation. Our results highlight the critical importance of institutional good governance as a prerequisite for national adaptation. Other elements of theorized adaptive capacity are unlikely to be sufficient, effective, or present at the national level where national institutions and governance are poor.

Evaluating climate change vulnerability assessments: a case study of research focusing on the built environment in northern Canada

2014 March 23

James D. Ford, Clara Champalle, Pamela Tudge, Rudy Riedlsperger, Trevor Bell, Erik Sparling. Find PDF here.

Abstract:
Vulnerability assessments (VAs) have been widely used to understand the risks posed by climate change and identify opportunities for adaptation. Few studies, however, have evaluated VAs from the perspective of intended knowledge users or with reference to established best practices. In this paper, we identify and evaluate VAs focusing on the built environment in northern Canada. We document 16 completed VAs, which range from engineering-based studies of the vulnerability of specific infrastructural assets (e.g. building foundations, roads) to community-based assessments characterizing the vulnerability of the built environment in general in specific communities. We then evaluate projects based on the extent to which they incorporate best practices for vulnerability assessment, informed by a review of the scholarship and interviews with practitioners and knowledge users in the north (n = 21). While completed VAs have increased our understanding of the risks posed by climate change, none perform well across all evaluation criteria, and interviewees identified the need for improvement to VAs to inform decision making. Specifically, there is a need for greater emphasis on stakeholder engagement and effective communication of research findings, and interdisciplinary collaboration to capture the multiple drivers of vulnerability, cost impacts, and examine the performance of infrastructural assets under different climate scenarios.

Talk: “For the For the Love of It: Getting up close and personal with Boil ups, Ice pans and Tuktu”

2014 February 12

Join Joanna, Kaitlyn and Knut this Friday for a Fieldwork in Photos Brown Bag Seminar talk titled “For the For the Love of It: Getting up close and personal with Boil ups, Ice pans and Tuktu”.

Bring your lunch and get ready for an adventure.
When: Friday Feb 14th – 12pm
Where: Burnside Hall 426 + Arctic

CCARG Fieldcast No. 3: Knut Kitching, Iqaluit, Nunavut

2014 February 5

Words, pictures and recordings by Knut Kitching

The whole building is rocking as the gusts whistle around it. Topping 100km and hour this wind will rage through the south Baffin tonight having blown up from northern Labrador. The whole of the Qikiqtaaluq region has a blizzard warning on according to Environment Canada and while we are already getting the wind, the temperatures have been rising steadily and its now a balmy -15C, and apparently we will be having snow over the next 72 hours.

Up here weather is the defining element of life.

Up here weather is the defining element of life. Some of the Iqalummiut I speak to don’t conceptualize their experiences of changing conditions as climate change, because for them there has not been any strongly discernable trend in the climate from year to year. Rather they say the change is visible in the increasing volatility and unpredictability of weather to which hunters and those travelling on the land are exposed. There are still bitterly cold winters and warmer ones, but now there are other events that make hunting more difficult, a reality the CCARG group has worked to describe through the Iqaluit Land Use Mapping Project.

Right now, wind and snow cover are on my mind as I stumble along the streets of Iqaluit my legs no longer my own as the wind tears at them – the tassel of my hat sticking out like a wind-vane behind me. The town is browner with each windy day as the rocks are scraped clean and gravel and last year’s tundra peek through. Across the bay, the white slopes of the Meta Incognita Peninsula are turning greyer and stonier by the day.

Knut Kitching receives Caribou Research and Management Award from BQCMB

2014 January 31

Congratulations to Knut Kitching who received the Caribou Research and Management Award from the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB). About the award:

“Since 1988, the BQCMB has helped post-secondary students learn more about the management and conservation of barren-ground caribou and their habitat through its Caribou Research and Management Award, sponsored by the Board’s Caribou Management Scholarship Fund. The annual award, administered by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS), currently carries a value of up to $1,500 and is open to anyone studying barren-ground caribou or their range in Canada. Preference is given to applicants from a caribou-range community and to those examining the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Herds.”

Click here to read more about the award recipients and other caribou news in the BQCMB Fall 2013 newsletter.

CCARG Fieldcast No. 2: Knut Kitching in Iqaluit, Nunavut

2014 January 29

Listen to our newest “Fieldcast”, part field report, part podcast, by Knut Kitching.

I am reaching the end of my first full week in Iqaluit and what a busy week it has been! This week has been about regaining my feet here and re-establishing relationships and contacts with knowledge-holders and community members. I have been very fortunate in my time here to have had the opportunity to spend time with some very kind and generous Iqalummiut amongst whom Meeka Mike and her partner Peter have been central – qujanamiik to them both!

Learning doesn’t just take place in an interview setting, with questions and answers from researcher and participant, but also as the simple and unstructured sharing of experiences as a part of conversation.

I spend a great deal of time worrying that my work does not progress fast enough (as I’m sure my committee does as well!), but here in Iqaluit that fades quickly away and I am able to enjoy the experience of learning from Iqalummiut. Learning doesn’t just take place in an interview setting, with questions and answers from researcher and participant, but also as the simple and unstructured sharing of experiences as a part of conversation. It has been wonderful to learn more not just about caribou hunting, but also about politics, snow-mobiles, sewing and parka design and the ever-present spectre of high food costs.

I finally caught a glimpse of the aurora over town on Thursday evening. Like a vast green sheet it moved wisp-like, dancing across the sky south-west of Iqaluit. Certainly the clearest I’ve ever seen it.

Kaitlyn Finner: Update from the field

2014 January 28

Master’s student Kaitlyn Finner has spent the past week in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut meeting with community members to learn about their views of the household food inventories completed throughout summer and fall 2013.

During August, September and November, 22 households participated in eight weeks of data collection. During the two, month-long periods, community members were asked to document all market and wild foods that passed through their homes. Kaitlyn and community research assistant Inez Shiwak are now meeting with residents to hear their reflections on the food inventory forms and process.

Rigolet, Nunatsiavut in January

This research is being conducted in partnership with the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC), and Inuit Traditional Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change (IK-ADAPT) projects and is run by the Rigolet Inuit Community Government.

Knut Kitching field report from Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Nunavut

2014 January 22

Listen to the accompanying audio field report by Knut:

Wow, what an arrival! Mere hours after touching down in a cold and blustery -26C I am being shown how to light a qulliq (the traditional soapstone lamp which Inuit have used for centuries for light and heat), while Meeka Mike tells me how she makes the wicks from mosses and lichens and willow catkins all crushed together in a special mixture. Then later just when I think its time to head home for a quiet supper on my own, I am whisked off by Meeka and Peter to come and eat family dinner at the Mike household. And what a meal it is, Inuktitut is flowing past my ears as I eat narwhal muqtuq with soya sauce, fermented char, fresh shrimp, and my personal favourite raw seal with extra blood (makes you feel warm for weeks!). Country food is served on cardboard on the kitchen floor while on the table there is pasta and pizza for those who want some store-bought food. An amazing meal with a lovely family!

Blowing ice crystals refract the light over Frobisher Bay as the sun sets at only 3pm. Thank goodness the days are getting longer and not shorter!

The Community Consultation on Baffin Island Caribou that happened here in Iqaluit on the 18th of January was a very interesting meeting to have attended. The tone of the discussion seemed to indicate a management institution still far from having made any decisions in any particular direction, and there has been as yet no rumours or preliminary discussion of a ballpark figure for Total Allowable Harvest for the South Baffin. From some angles this isn’t particularly surprising, the next aerial survey aimed at February and early March of this year aims to encompass the whole of Baffin Island in a single sweep, to provide an established figure and to double check the number achieved during the past couple of aerial surveys which were completed in 2012. Regardless all those in attendance were of the opinion that the document decline of more than 90% from 180,000 animals in the early 1990’s to less than 2000 today was of serious concern for all of the communities of Southern Baffin Island.

The tools of the trade: hat, mitts, wind pants and puffy jacket, maps, notebooks, camera, recorder, binoculars, boots, wooly socks, glasses, knife, phrasebook and thermos

Iqaluit is a particularly unique and interesting community to spend time in and think about in relation to caribou harvesting for a variety of reasons. Iqaluit is by far the largest community in Nunavut with a population of roughly 7000 and is also the community with the largest ratio of Qallunaat to Inuit (roughly 40% to 60%, compared to most other communities which are more than 85% Inuit). Iqalummiut are also more often than not recent arrivals to the community. Relatively few families have been resident here for more than one generation, people migrating here for employment in industry or government posts from across the Arctic. These factors along with the cost of hunting and safety gear, the challenges of intergenerational knowledge transmission, available time and difficult travelling conditions, make this a challenging harvesting climate.

The following are a few snapshots from the last couple of days here in Iqaluit. They’ve been chilly days, averaging around -23ish without windchill, though there have been some windy days as well. Wind certainly makes a difference, and it becomes plain to see how it changes the way the snow lies on the land. After each blustery day there are new rocks and bare gravel exposed where the snow lies thin, and one can see how travel on the land would become hard. Good deep snow is important both for protecting the plants which are deep in their senescence period but also to allow travellers to use snowmobiles and komatiqs without rattling themselves to pieces.

Last years willows and sedges visible where the wind has scraped away the snow.