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Taking note of climate change in Aklavik
Freelance writer Kelsey Rideout is with ArcticNorth Consulting, a Canadian organization that is partnering with Arctic communities to strengthen climate change adaptation efforts. For more information on their work, visit

Kelsey Rideout
Special to Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 8, 2011

In Aklavik, the effects of climate change have not gone unnoticed by those travelling on the land - both old and young.

Tom McLeod, a Grade 12 high school student who thoroughly enjoys hunting, describes some of the changes that are affecting subsistence activities in his community.

"The big change now is with the warm spell. The weather would be more consistent and then it would basically stay the same, minus 29 or 30 C, for the entire winter. But now we have a lot of minus 10 to 15 C for a week or so and then we'll get a big blizzard ... so the weather isn't as consistent as it used to be," McLeod said.

Unpredictable weather patterns hinder the ability for hunters to navigate the land in confidence and safety.

"You can't go out, you can't hunt, you can't check your traps and all that; that's a big deterrent for some people," McLeod said, explaining how difficult it is for hunters to continue working when blizzards occur. "It's a little bit harder to go out for longer periods of time because you can't always depend on the weather the way you used to."

The Inuvialuit Settlement Region is particularly vulnerable to climate change. As temperatures rise at a rate twice as high as the global average and wildlife migration patterns and sea-ice regimes continue to lose regularity, communities like Aklavik are constantly made aware of what a changing climate amounts to on the ground.

McLeod, who often works as a research assistant when climate scientists come to the community, encourages people in other areas of the world to more deeply consider how their way of life is affecting the North.

"It isn't really directly because of the people in the North that the weather is changing; it's because of how the world has been carrying itself and how development has caused an increase in greenhouse gases. If people knew more about how their lifestyle affected the North and other regions, they might be a little more conscious about how they live and work."

Though residents of Aklavik continue to face serious challenges while out on the land, McLeod doesn't hesitate in describing the unique aspects of Arctic living that remain unchanged.

"My favourite part of living here is freedom. I like travelling down south but you don't have as much freedom down there as you do here. Here you can go take a boat in the summer, snowmobile in the winter and just go for miles. You can go hunting and trapping and things like that. Down south, you're a bit cooped up. Here the freedom, it makes it worthwhile."

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