Inuit Food Security: Vulnerability of the traditional food system to climatic extremes during winter 2010/2011 in Iqaluit, Nunavut

Researchers involved at McGill: Sara Statham (lead), Dr. James Ford (advisor), Graham McDowell (Assistant), Peter Adams (Assistant).

Funding: Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, ArcticNet, Social Sciences and Health Research Council, Northern Scientific Training Program, Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (GEC3)

Other researchers: William Gough (University of Toronto), Rick Siewierski (University of Toronto)

Significant and rapid climate change is predicted for Arctic regions, and there is mounting evidence that it is already occurring. These changes have implications for Canada's Inuit population, many of whom depend on hunting and fishing for their livelihoods. Specifically, varying environmental conditions inhibit hunters from accessing traditional hunting grounds and alter the natural distribution of wildlife. This hinders Inuit from procuring country food, thus impacting food security. This research assesses how extreme climate conditions during winter 2010/2011 affected the traditional food system in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This case study employs a temporal analogue approach, arguing that in order to predict how climate change may affect communities in the future, it is necessary to understand how they experienced and responded to climatic variability in the past. Therefore, this timeframe is examined as it was anomalous in terms of environmental conditions throughout the Canadian Arctic, and these extreme conditions are expected to become more common with future climate change. This project uses a vulnerability-based approach whereby vulnerability to climate change is a function of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Objectives include: 1) characterize the exposure-sensitivity of Iqaluit’s traditional food system to extreme climatic conditions during winter 2010/2011 by comparing recent environmental observations to historical trends; 2) evaluate the adaptive capacity of the traditional food system by identifying coping strategies used by hunters for dealing with climatic extremes and by public housing residents for dealing with food-related stresses; 3) examine how the vulnerability of the traditional food system is influenced by environmental and socioeconomic processes operating at various spatial and temporal scales; 4) explore how the vulnerability of the traditional food system influences Inuit food security; 5) identify what lessons can be learned from winter 2010/2011 in terms of the future implications of the human dimensions of climate change. This mixed-method approach allows scientific knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional Inuit knowledge) to complement each other.

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