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Unnatural Disaster


18 November 2009


We've been hearing from Inuit about the Arctic getting warmer. Today's post includes a video upload featuring Alukie Metuq from Pangnirtung. In it, Alukie talks about the intense heat of the past year. No doubt, Pangnirtung is a climate change "hotspot" in the Arctic and has had to deal with a number of related "natural disasters".

In 2008, Pangnirtung had a very warm year. I was there and can attest to it. It was so warm that permafrost melted extensively in the area and three bridges collapsed, the local national park was forced to close because of unstable hiking trails, and a state of emergency had to be called because the community could not access their fresh water and sewage treatment plant, which were located on the opposite side of a river without a bridge. Check out this article for more details about Pang's climate change emergency:


Arguably, of all the Nunavut communities we've visited, Pangnirtung has been the hardest hit by climate change. I leave you with this anecdote of the extreme nature of the impacts. Last month, when we were leaving Pang, I was sitting on the plane with a local women who told me "climate change killed my brother". She said that a couple years back, it rained at Christmas time, which is very unusual. She remembered it vividly because she had been out shopping for gifts. One month later, her brother and some other hunters were out at the mouth of Cumberland Sound, near Davis Straight, when an avalanche fell from the mountains killing her brother. Other men in the party were not harmed, yet she said that they still live with pain, questioning why they survived and another did not. Apparently, the rain during the holidays of that year, made the snow highly unstable and was the cause of this "natural disaster".

Perhaps we need new language to describe these impacts. What do we call a natural disaster that isn't natural? A "post-natural disaster"? A "climate change catastrophe"? An "unnatural disaster"? We certainly need a new way of thinking and talking about these climate change-related impacts, which are hitting Inuit communities harder and faster than anywhere else in the world.

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More from this channel: Ian Mauro's Blog on Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change