ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P17)
Northern Futures? Climate, Geopolitics, and Local Realities
Location Senate House - Holden Room
Date and Start Time 28 May, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Olga Ulturgasheva (University of Manchester) email
  • Barbara Bodenhorn (University of Cambridge) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Peter Schweitzer (University of Vienna) and Michael Bravo (University of Cambridge)

Short Abstract

The dynamic of the latest large-scale socio-environmental upheavals in the Arctic has been associated with climate change. The panel organizers propose to examine adaptive and innovative community responses to changing circumpolar social and ecological conditions.

Long Abstract

In the coldest climate inhabited by humans there has been constant need to navigate through environmental uncertainty as well as radical social change imposed from outside for centuries. As a planetary diver that is characterized by minimalist ecosystems, what happens in the polar regions (ice melt, methane release) not only has profound global implications but sweeps rapidly through local eco-systems. The dynamic of the latest large-scale socio-environmental upheavals in the Arctic has been associated with climate change. The presence of fossil fuels that can only be accessed through high-risk measures (off-shore drilling, frackking) has intensified long-term tensions between economic interests in non-renewable resource development, commitment to sustainable renewable subsistence resources and ecological anxieties about the implications of such developments. In order to facilitate the human capacity to navigate through environmental risk and social catastrophes, it is important to understand and evaluate available socio-cultural mechanisms that have the potential to activate resilient responses to a range of critical situations. There is an urgent need for scientists across disciplines, in collaboration with other actors, to develop adaptive responses to socio-environmental change incorporating local expertise effectively and responsibly. The panel organizers propose to examine innovative community responses to changing circumpolar social and ecological conditions. Thus although the original impulse is driven by anthropologists with wide-ranging Arctic experience, the primary aim of this panel is to facilitate a cross-regional and multi-institutional discussion of local knowledge and experiences related to social risk and community action at the time of dramatic climate change.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Arctic Journalism: Reporting on climate, economics, and policies for many audiences

Author: Candis Callison (University of British Columbia)  email

Short Abstract

Arctic journalists have been tasked with reporting on climate change, economic development, and multiple levels of government priorities and policies. This paper draws on a multi-year research project that uses content analysis and ethnography to understand media changes in the Canadian Arctic.

Long Abstract

Journalists in the Arctic have been tasked with reporting on and adequately representing the severity of ongoing climate change as well as concurrent economic developments, holding community, regional, national, and transnational governments accountable for priorities and policies. News stories must often negotiate with varying kinds of knowledge, including local, indigenous, and scientific predictions and expertise. In assessing news values for regional and global audiences, journalists must also deal with colonial histories, sedimentations of representation, and transforming journalistic norms related to new and social media platforms. This paper draws from a multi-year research project that investigates how journalists based in the Canadian Arctic are adapting professional standards, norms and practices in order to navigate changes to media technologies, audiences, and news organizations. As new networked and digital media technologies enable greater reach and participation across the north, they are also expanding potential global audiences interested in news about economic, social and environmental changes taking place in the Arctic. This paper will discuss some early ethnographic research with journalists in the Canadian Arctic as well as in-depth content analyses of how regional, national, and international media have reported on the Arctic and how social media audiences and contributors on Twitter responded during major events such as COP 21 in Paris.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Author: Rachel Edwardson (Naninaaq Productions)  email

Short Abstract

In the Arctic we are increasingly making policy decisions in a siloed manner. Climate change and on-going assimilationist policies (internal and external) means that now, more then ever, we need the wisdom, holistic and intergenerational thinking leadership that guided our ancestors.

Long Abstract

For us, as Iñupiaq people, life in the Arctic has changed drastically in a short period of time. We find ourselves facing a myriad of complex and interwoven issues that traverse social, political, spiritual, environmental and economic realms. Climate change, when added to on-going assimilationist policies (internal and external) means that now, more than ever to avoid the siloed thinking that informs so much policy, we need the wisdom and holistic leadership that guided our ancestors. By looking closely at the two brief case studies we are reminded of the principles that have sustained us in the Arctic for millennia:

1. The interdisciplinary, continued, way of life that is a whaling

culture and,

2. The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation

Eastern Canadian Subarctic and a rapidly changing world

Author: Marie-Jeanne Royer (Aberystwyth University)  email

Short Abstract

By combining Cree observations with long-term measurements; we move away from simple documentation and towards a more integral understanding of the forces at play in the region while fostering interdisciplinary climate and environmental change research between northern communities and scientists.

Long Abstract

There is rising concern among the Cree of Eeyou Istchee (Eastern James Bay, Canada) about changes in weather patterns as they pose challenges to the practice of traditional subsistence activities, to health and to safety. The Eastern Canadian subarctic has also been the site of a number of important ongoing human led environmental changes starting in the 1950s. These include mining projects, infrastructure development and large scale hydroelectric developments. These have had significant repercussions on Cree lifestyle, influencing all aspects of daily life. However traditional subsistence activities remain vital to the Cree way of life. Based on a collaborative research with the Cree Trappers Association (CTA), we combined Cree hunters' observation of local meteorological conditions, environmental conditions and animal behaviour, with long-term measurements. In doing this, we hope to move away from simple documentation and towards a more integral understanding of the forces at play in the region by fostering interdisciplinary climate and environmental change research between northern communities and scientists. Through this research we conclude that Cree knowledge and scientific knowledge should be used in a complementary manner to further our understanding of the impacts of climate change and the appropriate adaptation measures in the Canadian subarctic.

Sea ice, Climate, and Resource Governance in a Northern Community: The Case of Grímsey Island, Iceland

Authors: Niels Einarsson (Stefansson Arctic Institute)  email
Astrid Ogilvie (Stefansson Arctic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Grímsey, an island off the coast of Iceland on the Arctic circle, represents a microcosm of the interplay between local and global change. The Grímsey community is experiencing climatic impacts related to diminishing sea ice, as well the socioeconomic implications of fisheries governance systems.

Long Abstract

Research undertaken for the GREENICE project (https://greenice.b.uib.no/) includes a focus on sea-ice and climate changes in the past and present, and places particular emphasis on analyses of the sustainability of coastal communities in northern regions. GREENICE is leading to significant insights into the viability and adaptability of such communities with regard to rapid climatic and other global changes. Biophysical changes linked to climate impacts are closely related to the realities of small-scale fishing in the Arctic. Clearly, such activities are extremely sensitive to changes in climate and the environment. This presentation considers developments in one small community: the Icelandic island of Grímsey. Fishermen from Grímsey are experiencing a variety of direct impacts through daily resource use, and express their concerns; for example, regarding perceived changes in the state of sea conditions. In particular, they link these to diminishing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean north of the island. Sea ice has a calming effect on sea state, and less and receding ice provides a greater fetch for waves to grow in size and power. When interacting with local currents, inshore shallows, and strong winds these can cause conditions that prevent fishing, and also become hazardous for small-boat activitities. The Grímsey community is also in a crisis due to processes whereby local fishing rights are translated into financial assets, with potentially irreversible social impacts. In this case, formerly common property catch rights have been used as collateral for loans taken to buy fish quotas in order to maintain community livelihoods.

Weather, floods and forest fires in Northeastern Siberia

Authors: Nikolai Krivoshapkin (Sebyan reindeer herding obshina)  email
Vasilii Keimetinov  email
Taisiia Keimeinova  email

Short Abstract

We shall discuss how dramatic weather changes, floods and forest fires impact livelihoods of the Siberian Eveny reindeer herders, their migration routes, conditions of reindeer pastures, behaviour of reindeer and wild animals.

Long Abstract

In our presentation we shall discuss how dramatic weather changes and unexpected seasonal fluctuations impact livelihoods of Siberian Eveny reindeer herders, specifically, their seasonal migration routes, conditions of reindeer pastures, behaviour of reindeer and wild animals. Eveny reindeer herders have lately observed that "land is getting too swampy and dangerously soft now" as recent weather fluctuations, unexpectedly high temperatures over summers as well as forest fires and river floods turn mountain lakes with fresh water into swamps. While areas with swamps and marshes are increasing from year to year, wild animals on whom Eveny rely for subsistence are migrating and disappearing. We shall make an attempt to examine how Eveny try to mitigate risk situations and what means they have been putting in use to deal with hazardous situations during river floods, forest fires and snow avalanches in the high mountains of Upper Verkhoyanie range in Northeastern Siberia.

The Challenge of Building Spiritual Strength during Climate Adaptation in Rural Communities of Northern Alaska

Authors: Glenn Juday (University of Alaska Fairbanks)  email
Chad Zielinski (Roman Catholic Church)  email

Short Abstract

Climate change affects rural residents of northern Alaska causing problems for subsistence and even requiring some villages to relocate. Many villages are Catholic and 44 parishes are distributed across the region. Spiritual strength from their faith will be an important to successfully adapt.

Long Abstract

Rural residents of northern Alaska depend on resources harvested from the land, sea, and rivers. These people have been exposed to some of the strongest climate change on the planet during the past half-century, and must adapt. Direct challenges to subsistence include changes to sea ice (later formation/earlier dissipation, reduced ice-dependent wildlife, higher risk for travel), and changing tundra (shrub invasion) and forests (increased fire and insect disturbance, mixed growth declines and increased vigor). Permafrost thawing and coastal erosion require that some communities relocate. Northern Alaska Inupiat, Yupik, Athabascan people have a mixed pragmatic and culturally defined relationship with their environments, and sustain a spiritual worldview reflecting traditional/ancestral elements and over a century of contact with global influences. The Catholic Diocese of Northern Alaska is an important institution in the region, and many villages are Catholic. The majority of the 44 Catholic parishes are in the villages along the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, which support migratory runs of salmonids and riparian moose habitat, or along the northern and western Alaska coasts with access to marine mammals and fish. Catholic sacramental ministry is provided by rotating and resident priests, who often share subsistence activities with villagers. Catholic teaching concerning environmental stewardship is summarized by the encyclical Laudato Si, placing these issues within overall Catholic moral and spiritual teaching. Spiritual strength from their faith will be an important basis for rural people to successfully adapt and retain their identity as their world and way of life continue to change.

People of the cryosphere: a cross regional, cross-disciplinary approach

Author: Hildegard Diemberger (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

Climate change narratives have often brought together people leaving at high-altitude with people living at high-latitude. On the basis of ethnographies from the Himalaya and the Alps that can be set in dialogue with those of the circumpolar North I explore the social and cultural life of the cryosphere.

Long Abstract

Climate change narratives have often brought together people leaving at high-altitude with people living at high-latitude. Proximity to ice formations affected by rising temperature and vulnerability to changing weather pattern impacting livelihoods are some of the most striking common denominators. These and many other related phenomena suggest that the notion of cryosphere, which is often used in the natural sciences to refer to areas of the world where water is in the solid state, can be looked at anthropologically and cross-disciplinarily in a variety of ways. In this paper I present ethnographies from the Himalaya and the Alps that can be set in dialogue with those of the circumpolar North to explore the significance of local knowledge, cultural constructions of risk and community action in contexts that are particularly vulnerable to climate change related hazards.

Food, Weather and Feelings: Impacts of Climate Change on Alaska Native Social Life and Emotions

Authors: Stacy Rasmus (University of Alaska Fairbanks)  email
Cynthia Nation (University of Alaska Fairbanks)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will examine indigenous observations of climate change and the relationships between changes in the environment and changes that are also being observed in the community and in the youth and the people.

Long Abstract

In Alaska, rapid changes in climate and weather are leading to increased uncertainty and distress among the regions' indigenous inhabitants. Along the Bering Sea Coast, Yup'ik Alaska Native people are experiencing rapid and extreme changes to their landscape as well as to their water and weather systems. Changes in the climate and environment have introduced new and often troubling environmental conditions for indigenous residents accustomed to navigating their world using ancestral knowledge and practice. The changing environmental conditions have also brought new plant and animal life into the Yup'ik region and attenuated decreases in other traditional sources of food and harvest. Food and weather have been a primary human concern in the Arctic for centuries, and remain central to a Yup'ik way of being in the world. Previous studies acknowledge the critical role that the environment plays in the achievement and maintenance of physical health for the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Equally important in a contemporary indigenous Arctic context, is the role of the environment for an individual's for an individual's spiritual and emotional health and holistic wellbeing. This paper will examine indigenous observations of climate change and the relationships between changes in the environment and changes that are also being observed in the community and in the youth and people. We will conclude by identifying strategies for positive adaptation and resilience to rapid socio-environmental change that communities are engaging today.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.