The Search for Legal Remedies
Edited by Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk
Chapter 13: America’s Arctic: climate change impacts on indigenous peoples and subsistence
Climate change has a disproportionate effect on the Arctic. The Arctic in general is warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, while America’s Arctic is warming at nearly three times that rate. This warming results in a cascade of effects on the Arctic environment, including the melting of sea ice and permafrost, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and coastal erosion, and increased frequency and intensity of storm events. America’s Arctic is home to indigenous people such as the Inupiat Eskimo of Alaska’s North Slope and the Gwich’in Athabaskan of Alaska’s Interior. Culturally and nutritionally, the Inupiat are closely connected with animals in the Arctic Ocean, including whales, walrus, seals, waterfowl and fish. The Gwich’in consider themselves the ‘caribou people’, and the foundation of their culture and subsistence is the Porcupine Caribou Herd. These people have lived offthe resources of the Arctic for thousands of years, and are as much a part of the Arctic environment as the wildlife and fish of the Arctic that have allowed them to live and thrive there for so long. The ability of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic to pursue their hunting, fishing and gathering activities is directly linked to their food security and thus their future. In a real sense, therefore, the cultures and futures of these Arctic peoples are inextricably intertwined with the Arctic environment.
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