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New risks, new strategies: Greenlandic Inuit responses to climate change




Derry, Kimberly Wolfe, author
Kwiatkowski, Lynn, advisor
Galvin, Kathy, committee member
Stallones, Lorann, committee member

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As climate change accelerates, its effects are especially pronounced in the Arctic region. The Arctic has a history of susceptibility and vulnerability to climate change. The Arctic's indigenous peoples are facing increased challenges, most notably in their abilities to harvest food resources. This thesis uses field research and literature review to explore the ways in which Inuit in Greenland are able to manage their resources and responses to the changing climate conditions, and to prevent and cope with climate related injury. An in-depth analysis of the plight of the Inuit includes discussion of the historical political, social, economic, cultural, and geographical factors that shape and inform their methods of responding to climate change. This thesis describes ways that the Inuit perceive climate change and interact with their changing environment, and the extent to which they apply their traditional ecological knowledge and contemporary technology to survive and shape policy that influences their coping responses. It also discusses Inuit people's vulnerability to injury in relation to climate change. In this thesis, I argue that climate-related changes in sea ice conditions increase vulnerability to potential injury events during travel on ice for Greenlandic Inuit hunters and fishermen, particularly in remote locations. Specifically, individuals living in remote areas have less access to resources that can increase their chances for survival than do their counterparts living in population centers. In general, Inuit employing a wide range of coping responses are better positioned to act in response to climate change in spite of the emerging hazards. In addition, my research illustrates that different individuals within and across Inuit communities will be successful in this regard, which is largely based on historical legacy, intra-community access to resources, and differences within and between communities (including, e.g., gender, age, occupation, and location). Inuit individuals that I found to be the most successful in employing a wide range of coping responses include those who are hunters by occupation, and work as fishermen as well, living in or near larger population centers, with good access to resources and high levels of traditional ecological knowledge that is continuously negotiated in response to rapidly changing environmental conditions. Finally, in this thesis, I draw conclusions concerning which Inuit are most vulnerable to increased risk of injury related to changing sea ice, and which types of responses are most effective. The Inuit that I have found to be most vulnerable to increased risk of injury related to changing sea ice are those who are younger, traditional hunters living in more remote coastal villages, with reduced access to resources, low levels of traditional ecological knowledge, and limited hunting/fishing skills. Based on my research, the types of responses that I found to be most effective include making extra preparations, such as taking extra food and supplies, before going out hunting or fishing. In addition, people are becoming more "risk averse" and avoiding dangerous areas and travel at certain times of the year. Other coping responses involve group travel and a stronger reliance on intra-communal resources.


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climate change


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