You may have heard that the Inuit of Nunavut and Alaska are suing the Bush administration for not signing on to the Kyoto Protocol (read it here). This may sound a bit far fetched for those of you living in Toronto or out West where cold temperatures and snow are plentiful at the moment. However, the impact of climate change is so noticeable here in Nain, that I can't help but write about it from my own perspective.
Two weeks ago, I was all excited to get my new skidoo. I am still very thankful to have it, to be sure, but the reality of how limited I am with it is just hitting me now. In the north, it is not supposed to snow in January and February - it is supposed to be ass-biting cold and therefore too cold to snow. This hasn't happened. We are supposed to have snow in November and December and then the first two months of the New Year are supposed to be freezing months where ice fishing and lots of ice travel happen. This year, we are seeing all kinds of snowfall records being broken and indeed, it is snowing and RAINING here today. This means that there is a ton of weight on the ice, much more than usual, and because we do not have the cold temperatures, the ice is "rotting" already. Many people here cannot get out to their cabins, nor go fishing and hunting, much less travel to points south on the coast by skidoo. It is so dangerous with this much snow covering the ice, and any open or weak spots, that people are sticking close to the community or taking huge risks to go out for wood or fish and caribou.
For me, it means we are community bound. Oh sure we can travel a bit on land, but with hills all around us and deep snow, we can't get very far at all. The ice IS the highway here and it is not in good shape at all. Our office had been planning a retreat at one of the cabins own by a staff memeber. Three years ago, they went at Easter. This year, there isn't likely to be any ice travel at all by Easter. We thought maybe we could go sometime in early March instead. With the weather we have had in the past month, that isn't likely to happen either as folks realise their cabins are already inaccessible.
I am not as 'green' as I want to be - nor as I should be. I leave lights on, brush my teeth with the water running, and fall asleep with the heating pad still sucking juice from the outlet. I can do more - we all can probably, if we all think about the little things we do that we know are inconsistent with a health environment. I am no environment crusader, but when I think of what living in the north was like 15 years ago compared to today, I get scared - really scared. People's lives are at risk, not just their livelyhoods. People NEED to go out for wood, they NEED to go out for meat and fish, and they NEED to get away from the townsite from time to time - just like you or I need our holidays and weekend getaways and groceries from Sobey's.
I haven't even touched on the cultural aspects of what all this means. People in Ottawa were briefly horrified at the thought that the Rideau Canal might not open for skating this year. Imagine if it never froze, the Carnival in Quebec never took place, we never had the sugar shack festivals in New Brunswik or Quebec or Alberta ever again. These are small and almost insignificant events compared to losing a whole way of life that involved food sources, personal safety on the land/ ice, how to build shelter, and how to recharge and reconnect with nature - how to survive and how to be Inuit.
And that's my rant on that.