Sila Alangotok: Inuit Observations on Climate Change

Posted: 28 February 2001

Unusual species of fish, birds, animals and insects; melting permafrost; a disappearing lake; thinning ice; and unprecedented reports of Arctic lightning storms are among dozens of climate change-related impacts in the Far North documented in Sila Alangotok: Inuit Observations on Climate Change, a dramatic new video released in the run-up to the Climate Change conference in the Hague last November (2000).

The video footage vividly illustrates for the first time the many ill effects warming temperatures are having on Inuit hunters, trappers and fishers in the hamlet of Sachs Harbour on Banks Islands, Northwest Territories, the most westerly island in the Canadian Arctic.

melting permafrostJohn Keogak shows Terry Woolf and Neil Ford an example of coastal permafrost melting© Graham AshfordAmong the climate change problems captured by the video project:

  • An inland lake that drained into the ocean killing all of the fresh water fish, because of melting permafrost;
  • Foreign insects and animals showing up in the region and competing for food and habitat;
  • Thinning ice, making hunting and fishing more dangerous. Seals and polar bears are carried further out to sea, making it more difficult for residents to get food;
  • Building foundations shifting due to permafrost melt, leaving some residents fearful they might have to abandon their community;
  • Autumn storms are more frequent and severe, making boating difficult. Thunder and lightning are reported for the first time.
Produced by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Hunters and Trappers Committee of Sachs Harbour, the video follows local people onto the land and sea around Sachs Harbour - and chronicles the changes they've observed - as they perform traditional activities.

Two videos have been produced. A 14-minute version captures the intensity and challenge of climate change. The longer, 42-minute version includes additional, in-depth observations and visual evidence of climate change, including the appearance of salmon, barn swallows and robins; the impacts on musk ox and geese; interviews with science team members; and archival footage.

"We've long known Polar Regions play an important role in regulating weather patterns around the world," said IISD project manager Graham Ashford.

"Scientists have been predicting climate change would be most severe in the Polar Regions first. This project provides first-hand evidence of that and an indication of what's in store for the rest of us."

1. Click on the link to view video on-line in RealPlayer. 2. To order a copy of the video cassette, contact:

International Institute for Sustainable Development 161 Portage Ave. E., 6th Floor Winnipeg MBCANADA R3B 0Y4

Tel: +1-204-958-7700Fax: +1-204-958-7710Email: : www.iisd.org

3. View high-resolution still photographs online.