The Sea Ice Never Stops. Circumpolar Inuit Reflections on Sea Ice Use and Shipping in Inuit Nunaat.
Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
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SubjectICC, inuit circumpolar council, arctic council, sea ice, inuit reflections, shipping, Nunaat, SAO, Whitehorse, 2015
"This report from the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) contributes to the ongoing work of the Sustainable Development Working Group and the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment working groups of the Arctic Council. As a Permanent Participant at the Arctic Council, ICC speaks on behalf of all 160,000 Inuit living in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia. The health and well-being of Inuit are inextricably tied to the Arctic environment. For millennia, we have been stewards of the Arctic, and our culture and subsistence traditions reflect our deep knowledge and respect for the land. Climate change is already impacting Inuit livelihoods, as melting sea ice and less predictable weather make it harder to utilize traditional knowledge. Increasingly uncertain weather and unstable sea ice have made it harder and riskier for us to travel and hunt on the land, infringing on our human right to a healthy environment. Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia are deeply concerned about current and potential impacts of climate change on our health, the health of our homeland, and the wellbeing of future generations. Traditional and scientific knowledge suggests that we have reached a critical point in terms of Arctic change; sea ice melt is quickening, and scientists predict an ice-free September by mid-century. The future health and wellness of our families and communities depends on our ability to maintain our livelihoods and pass on our cultural knowledge to the next generation. This report investigates Inuit use of sea ice. It looks at existing sources of information regarding land use and occupancy to understand sea ice use, augmenting this with responses from interviews with Inuit hunters from Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia) to provide a pan-Inuit perspective. It includes general predictions about the future in light of climate change and reduced sea ice based on the experience and traditional knowledge of Inuit hunters. The central thread running through this study is that Inuit are a maritime people: our entire culture and identity is based on free movement over the sea and sea ice. We rely on free movement, first and foremost, in order to eat, since so much of our diet is derived from hunting. This mobility is also essential in trade, communication, in obtaining supplies for traditional clothing and art, as well as to maintain pride in our rich cultural heritage. In order to take advantage of the sea ice our communities are predominantly coastal and, in some cases, travel by sea is the only means of moving in or out of our homes. Inuit share a common culture based on similar hunting, fishing, and whaling patterns. There are regional variations because certain communities have easier access to various species, however, the centrality of sea ice to our culture and physical survival is something that we hold in common. Because the goal of this report is to give voice to Inuit perspectives and concerns regarding the impact of changes in the Arctic, the text includes many direct quotations from Inuit residents of the North. Many interviewed for this report emphasize the importance of the sea to their everyday lives, and are very concerned that their voices be heard by the people whose decisions will affect their culture and livelihoods. The use of direct quotations is our means of presenting their concerns to a wider public. Please pay close attention to the words of the Inuit hunters. Inuit have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years and intend to live there for thousands more." NOTE: This version of the report is a draft version. Please look among the documents from the Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Canada, 2015 to find the final and approved-by-Ministers version of the report, or see this link: https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/410.
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