The Arctic environment is a hard place to call home, but its about to become tougher..
Bleak, freezing, inhospitable: its hard to overstate how harsh Arctic climate is for a near-hairless ape from Africa. Hidden in darkness for half a year and blinded by 24 hour light for the other half – It was one of the last places humans settled. The Vikings who tried to live their failed and to this day few Europeans live there, only the native Inuit peoples have mastered this ice-scape.
Key to the Inuits’ success was their sustainable hunting culture they developed over the centuries – as the fragile arctic ecosystem makes conservation of living resources essential to long term survival. Put simply there is so little there to eat you the only way to survive is to be careful how much you hunt, use all that you kill and keep moving.
This culture is changing. The Inuit are giving up a nomadic lifestyle due to the pressures and temptations of the modern world. The problem with this is the Inuits practices are sustainable only whilst the population remains low. This means settling down to enjoy the basic comforts we all enjoy in the UK – electricity, running water, heating and legal recognition that we have a right to be on the land we live on – could deplete the very resources the Inuit depend on, endangering their long term survival.
However, the impact of the people who live in the Arctic is tiny compared to the impact the rest of us are having. We are indirectly driving a drastic and radical transformation in the furthest region of the planet. Mining, commercial fishing, toxic plastics, international pollution and most-significantly climate change, which threatens to increase arctic sea temperatures, ocean acidity and leave the ocean devoid of summer ice cover, are already exacerbating an already fragile ocean environment. On top, as the ocean ice melts, it opens up the region to intrepid ships and explorer- creating a geopolitical scramble for the Arctic’s resources – with the Arctic poised to be the next Africa, divided and exploited with terrible results for those living there.
Luckily the Inuit are resilient – they’ve had to be – and of all of Earth’s people are the most ready to adapt and work together to save the Arctic. But if they are to succeed in saving their remote ice-world and the animals who live there we have to change as well.
Its a perverse twist of fate that the one of the most sustainable ways of life on the planet is threatened by the purchases of people thousands of miles away.
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