Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

This is a link to a documentary on Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change.

I found out about the documentary from an email on the GEP-ED mailing list, which is an  ISA Environmental Studies Section group that focuses on methods and material for teaching Global Environmental Politics and related topics.

The documentary is well worth a watch. It is mostly Inuit elders speaking about their experience of how the environment has changed over their lifetime and what they believe to be the drivers of this change. One of the most uncomfortable moments was when a number of elders talked about how they felt the power and position of the sun had changed and how this was responsible for warming the Arctic and melting the ice. I suppose it made me uncomfortable because of all the internet material against the IPCC and manmade global warming that I come across. Not that feeling uncomfortable is necessarily a bad thing if it helps to re-examine the common sense, but this then has clear implications for both Inuit knowledge and scientific knowledge (see recent article by Kyle Grayson, 2010).

The second part of the movie that is likely to spark discussion is the Inuit’s observations of polar bears and the detrimental effect wildlife biologists have by monitoring the animal’s behaviour. I found this part of the movie interesting because it goes completely against our view that the polar bear is a threatened species that needs our protection. It also reminds me of when I was in Cape Breton in Nova Scotia talking to some local fisherman about the decline in fish stocks they’d been experiencing since the nineties. Whilst they thought the fish had been affected by over fishing and changes in the climate, they lay a greater portion of blame with marine biologists. When fish stocks had started to decline the fisherman were given fishing quotas. They protested against these, saying that you could not draw hard boundaries and assign fishing territories along the coastline because the fish migrate. However, the fishermen said that those that designed and assigned the fishing quotas scoffed at this remark, replying fish do not migrate! Now I do not know whether the fishermen were right about migrating fish or not, but what is interesting (but perhaps unsurprising) is that in both of these examples scientific knowledge had authority over practical knowledge, despite the fact that this practical knowledge had arisen through its relationship and reliance upon the fish or the ice.

Anyways, just some thoughts, I’d be interested to hear what others thought of the video.

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About Hannah Hughes

I am a lecturer in the School of Law and Politics. My research interests stem from my concern with environmental degradation and include: Climate change; knowledge and power; global environmental politics; environmental security
This entry was posted in climate change, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

  1. An article on some of the impacts of climate change on Arctic communities: http://www.adn.com/2011/03/27/1778191/warming-brings-unwelcome-change.html

  2. I saw another interesting documentary the other day: The Last Beekeeper. You can view a trailer for it here but I couldn’t find the full version on the web.

    The documentary follows three beekeepers in the US as they prepare to travel to California to pollinate the almond blossoms in California. It documents their life and love of bees as they lose large numbers of hives to unexplained but aptly labelled “colony collapse disorder”. If you come across it I would definitely recommend watching it.

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