Inuit Exposure to Climate Change; the Importance of their Traditional Knowledge

by jessicasiefer on November 25, 2016 - 1:37pm

Climate change is the ultimate wicked problem and we often overlook the impacts unless they are happening to us directly. Here in Southern Ontario we are not directly affected by these changes, so we turn a blind eye to fellow Canadians in the Arctic. Inuit communities are faced with negative social and environmental impacts caused by climate change. I came across an article by CBC News writer Sima Sahar Zerehi reviewing a book written by various Inuit authors from the Canadian Arctic. The book is made up of stories and knowledge shared by Inuit elders about how the changing climate has directly impacted their culture; from the transformed environment, their diet and many of their traditional ways. I think it’s extremely important to take a closer look at the personal experiences of this group in relation to their altered environment. I want to bring up the idea that the different types of knowledge, scientific and traditional, can both contribute productive information and aid adaption in the Arctic.

The book, “The Caribou Taste Different Now”, reviewed in the article offers a more personal view on how communities in the Arctic are coping and “puts a human face on climate change”. We have access to books and reports that offer information about the Arctic collected through scientific studies that are based on specific data and statistics. The Inuit people are raised to be one with their surrounding environment, learning to cherish a connection between people and the land. The Inuit have immense experience with the Arctic, but due to the size of their communities their voice is suppressed, and knowledge overlooked. We tend to rely heavily on research from those with credentials, but we should be listening to this group first hand experiencing impacts of climate change.

Traditional ecological knowledge is often overlooked due to questions about its validity; but I think there is a lot we can learn from the people who have been raised utilizing their environment. It boils down to a situation of cognitive conflict between those who base their knowledge on experiences and those who base it on facts or statistics. These two groups have different ways of collecting information and have a major difference in the way they view the world as a whole. Inuit communities are educated by their elders who have used the environment for hunting, weather forecasting and navigation for countless generations. We might want to pose the question; could this group of people be more aware of the changes in the Arctic than scientists conducting only short term studies?

After watching the film provided in class titled “Inuit Knowledge on Climate Change”, and coming across this article, I have become aware of the immense knowledge that the Inuit people have. I think it’s important to take into account they have accumulated through personal experiences and give them more a voice in matters regarding the Arctic; their home. The concept of co-management seems like a beneficial route to take and will allow the Inuit to participate in matters relating to them. This type of management will allow scientists and the Inuit people to work together in the Arctic, combining technical science with traditional knowledge. With the future of the Arctic in mind, incorporating Inuit traditional knowledge will be valuable for adapting to the changing environment.

 

Zerehi, S. S. (2016, July 16). Book shares Inuit elders’ insights on climate change in Arctic. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/book-inuit-elders-on-climate-change-...

Comments

Your post is very resourceful and I am very glad I read it, there is a huge conflict with the Inuit people and scientific studies but in general I do believe that scientific research has proved climate change and that the north is most effected. Similarly, to the First Nations people in Alberta being slowly contaminated by oil sands while the government and oil companies seem to deny responsibility i believe that there is worth in listening to these people and their first-hand experiences. The Inuit believe that their land and traditions are changing due to climate change which is true absolutely, but scientific research is more viable for a reason. It has facts and data that date far back and it supports that climate change is real though it may not come from someone living in the situation I do believe that it supports that there is a change. For a solution to this problem I believe a collaboration with the Inuit people is necessary, but I also believe that the Inuit people must adapt to these changes as the world has with more erratic weather and warmer conditions.

Hey Jessica!
Thanks for posting on such a prominent issue.
Collaboration between the Inuit people and scientists, using both traditional and scientific knowledge, is a crucial thing that must take place in order to effectively co-manage. Climate Change is taking a major toll on all aspects of Inuit life and by adding what is traditionally taught to the Inuit peoples in the Arctic, and bringing that into modern science will benefit greatly when it comes to answering fundamental questions on Climate Change. The statement you make, "The Inuit have immense experience with the Arctic, but due to the size of their communities their voice is suppressed, and knowledge overlooked" is very important. It is true. The majority of the Inuit population is so overlooked and they shouldn't be. The things that they can bring to the table that the vast majority of others can't is a bundle of information and tactics that can't be lost or tossed aside. With collaboration and cooperation, I believe that both traditional and scientific knowledge can help to better understand what we know as Climate Change.

Thanks again for posting on such an important issue, Jessica.
-Devan