'That's a loss to our culture.'

Elder finds good sealskins scarce as &#39Baff;in; warms


The last time Igah Kalluk of Clyde River spent an entire winter in a snowhouse was back in 1956.

Since then, it's become too warm in her northern Baffin community for an igloo to survive the entire winter.

On top of that, the camping places she and her family used to favour during the spring and summer are no longer even recognizable: one beach, which used to slope steeply towards the water, is now flat and narrow.

Kalluk told participants at this week's conference on planning for climate change in Iqaluit how she spent her life in the cold, on the land, raising her family in difficult conditions.

Today, she's happy that life is easier, but she can't find a decent sealskin to make traditional clothing from, familiar glaciers have retreated, and many streams reduced to a trickle.

These are among the changes that Kalluk has seen in her more than 70 years in and around the community of Clyde River.

"That's a loss to our culture," she told a session on building community capacity, with interpretation provided by Nick Illauq, the director of Clyde River's Ittaq Heritage and Resource Centre.

As an elder, Kalluk is closely involved with Clyde River's adaptation plan for climate change, overseen by the Ittaq Heritage and Research centre.

The plan, prepared in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Planners and Natural Resources Canada, is a part of a pilot program in Nunavut.

The lead-up to the plan involved the community at every step of the way. At the end, the residents of Clyde River came up with 30 action items that the community can take to prepare themselves for climate change.

Most of these actions, which involve the hamlet, Ittaq, hunters and trappers association and other organizations don't rely on outside intervention or money to carry out.

They include everything from finding new, cooler places to store meat to asking the nursing station to stock medicine that can be used to treat botulism, a sometimes fatal toxin that can be found in improperly fermented meat.

Some actions, such as encouraging all people going out on the land to carry location devices, will require government money to carry out.

But the expertise will be local because the HTA is able to provide training.

Carrying out some of the action items simply requires a visit or a telephone call, such as asking the local stores to carry sunscreen and floating snowmobile suits.

Outside consultants worked hand-in-hand with members of community-based advisory committee to develop the plan. They met with focus groups and over time to fine-tune it.

The result: a model that will be useful for other communities in Nunavut and throughout the Arctic.

Illauq said Clyde River's climate change adaptation plan will help prepare residents for emergencies and ready them for a future where neither snowmobiles nor all-terrain vehicles will serve as good modes of transportation.

Another climate change adaptation plan has also been developed for the community of Hall Beach, where the hamlet, along with a local steering committee, will implement the plan.

In Hall Beach, the main challenges related to climate change include the erosion of the shoreline, changing ice conditions and wildlife.

People in the community also want to beef up their emergency preparedness because they've seen the devastation from natural disasters such as the 2004 East Asian tsunami on televisions.

Hall Beach plans to observe and monitor storm surges and sea ice.

Some of the actions the community came up with cost nothing – like passing a zoning bylaw prohibiting more construction on the eroding shoreline. Others – like the fortification of the shoreline with large rocks or a breakwater – will require government money.

Hall Beach's action plan also includes a feasibility study that looks at relocation options, such as moving the community to the west or north or even to nearby Igloolik.

By 2050, the temperatures in Hall Beach could go up significantly, the amount of snow and rain increase, water levels rise and winds speed up, while similar changes are in store for Clyde River where the temperature could go up by as much as 12 degrees.

Sea ice loss will accompany these changes making it more difficult for these communities to survive unless they have a plan to adapt.

Some at the conference session suggested the next step may be for the communities to look at ways they can contribute to lessening the impact of climate change at home.

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