Ak: Gathering zones in on new climate's effect on Arctic life - focus on indigenous peoples
- Gathering zones in on new climate's effect on Arctic life
WARMING: Focus was on indigenous peoples; eight countries were represented.
By PETER PORCO
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: October 1, 2005)
An organization working to bring the perspective of indigenous peoples of
the Arctic to the debate on climate change held its first gathering in
Alaska this week.
More than 140 people from eight circumpolar countries -- the majority of
them from Alaska -- participated in three days of workshops and cultural
events at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
According to some of the participants, among their messages is this one:
Earth's atmosphere is heating up, most apparently in the North, affecting
the environment and posing a threat to Arctic peoples, who have been
watching its effects firsthand for decades.
Snowchange 2005: Indigenous Observations of Ecological and Climate Change
was the third international gathering of the Finland-based organization
Snowchange International and the first to involve all eight nations, said
Patricia Cochran of Anchorage, director of the Alaska Native Science
Commission, one of several event sponsors.
Besides the United States and Finland, those attending came from Canada,
Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Russian Federation. It ended
Polar bears in the Canadian Arctic are becoming thinner and scavenging for
unusual prey, such as musk oxen, because receding ice packs often leave
them stranded on land, said John Keogak of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island
in the Northwest Territories.
Even stranger, Keogak said in an interview Friday, grizzly bears have been
venturing near Sachs Harbour, about 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle,
where a healthy boar was shot a few years ago.
Like the brown bears, beavers also have ventured where they were not seen
before, populating new forested habitat near Nome, Kotzebue and other
areas of northern Alaska, said Cochran, who is originally from Nome.
Elaine Abraham, a Tlingit from Yakutat who chairs the Native Science
Commission, said dwarf willow has been overcome in places near Savoonga on
St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea by willow trees that grow to five
"Indigenous peoples can't run -- where are we going to run to?" Abraham
said. "We must adapt and survive."
Climate change is not an abstraction but a matter of life and death, said
Steven Baryluk of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. For example, when ice
forms on rivers, lakes and bays later in the year than in the past, or is
not as strong, hunters and others who travel on it can lose their lives,
The conference participants plan to issue a report and recommendations,
Cochran said. Among them will be recognition of the need to continue
speaking on the issue with a united voice, she said.
Daily Reporter Peter Porco can be reached at pporco@... or 257-4582.
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