Bits and Pieces 9: The Arctic Ice and the Inuit
“Pictures of the polar region from 1979 and 2003 clearly show that about 30% of the Arctic ice has melted. This has greatly affected the way of life of the native Inuit who live and hunt on the Polar ice. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture, which sustained them for centuries, will be destroyed.”
Although arguments still rage about whether the Arctic sea ice is disappearing, the disappearance is a fact of life for those who live near the Arctic Ocean. The photos clearly show that the Arctic Sea ice is disappearing. A recent TulsaWorld article described how the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice has affected the lives of the native Inuit people in Greenland. Ice which used to be 2 meters thick in the winter, now grows only a few centimeters thick, far too thin to allow dogsleds to go to the nearest town, 50 miles away across the bay. They can no longer venture onto the ice to hunt for seals or walrus, a mainstay of their diet, nor can they go out on the ice to fish. The Polar bears they sometimes hunt have no fat, as the bears cannot swim to the ice packs to hunt, and they sometimes prowl the villages looking for food.
Drilling for oil has picked up in the area as the ices disappears, but so far little oil has been found. Exploration continues, and if oil is eventually found, it carries the possibility of economic development. But it also carries the possibility that an oil spill, almost impossible to clean up in the icy environment, would destroy much of the ocean life the natives now depend on for food. The sad thing is that they are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed.
(c) 2011 J.C. Moore