Climate change wreaking havoc on Canada’s North

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Take it from Jose Kusugak: climate change is turning life upside down for indigenous peoples in Canada’s North.

Extreme weather shifts in the Arctic bring in their wake swarms of insects, treacherously thin ice floes and fast-spoiling food supplies, the Inuit community leader said Friday at the United Nations World Climate Change Conference.

“Many nations think of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in the abstract — we experience it,” said Kusugak, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The national association, which represents about 54,000 Inuit in four regions across Canada, Friday launched Unikkaaqatigiit: Putting the Human Face on Climate Change — Perspectives from Inuit in Canada.

The study, available online at www.itk.ca, was conducted over four years in partnership with Laval University, the National Aboriginal Health Organization, Inuit land-claim organizations and 17 Inuit communities across the Arctic.

“If anyone knows about climate change, it’s people who live their lives outside,” said Kusugak, 55, who was born in Repulse Bay, Nunavut

Dramatic climate changes and their impact on everyday life are troubling for many traditionalists, he added.

“Unusual animals are appearing where I hunt. I’d rather not have these species in my hunting grounds,” Naalak Nappaluk, 84, a Nunavik community elder who attended the UN conference to voice his concerns about climate change, said through an Inuktitut translator, citing lynx and a new variety of seal pups.

“They are not good for the health of the existing animals, and disrupt the balance of nature.”

Muctar Akumalik, 73, is perplexed by weather changes around his home in Arctic Bay, Nunavut.

“I used to be able to predict the weather, but now I often get it wrong,” Akumalik said, through his translator.

Arctic travel is also more difficult because increasingly strong winds blow snow cover from the trails used by dog teams and snowmobiles, Akumalik added.

New land roads to link isolated communities, freezers and food exchanges for lean times, improved housing and drinking water treatment plants are among recommendations listed in the Inuit perspectives study.

Not that climate change has been all bad, said Kusugak, who enjoys more occasions to go out on his boat and to fish during prolonged warm spells.

But the downside — rotting meat, unexpected ice cracks under foot, homes shifting in the softened permafrost — is more worrisome, he said.

“People are dying because of the quick pace of climate change in the Arctic,” Kusugak said.

“It’s like a new world out there, and a not so good one when you consider that we depend on history and traditional knowledge to live, hunt and prepare food.”

Source: Montreal Gazette

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