Inuit living by a forest? How will Greenland response to the climate change?

by Kaisa Figueiredo, Kaia Kask, Richard Lamprecht and Antti Manninen

Arctic areas of the globe are facing new challenges with the changing climate. The affects can be both positive and negative, and they can be seen in many different ways throughout the nature, culture and society itself.

Inuit are part of Greenland’s nature with their habits and life style. They have and had to adapt to the changes of nature reaching a compromise that serves their habits (hunting, fishing) and at the same time continues the knowledge of their ancestors. New knowledge is filtering in and going back to the life style of ancestors is one possible way for the society in the future.  The question is if the society in Greenland or any society elsewhere is willing to take a step back. On the other hand,  emphasizing Greenland´s indigenous culture and history builds the base of preserving and strengthening in future generations. In Greenland are no trees growing, but instead there are fjords that magically appear from the morning mist. What would happen to nature, society and the economy if trees would grow in Greenland? Somehow the Greenlandic “thing” would be lost in that way.

For Greenlandic people, especially for the indigenous Inuit that live on hunting and fishing, the warming climate has set up new problems in their daily life. Along with the melting ice and growing water flow from the glaciers, summer droughts have appeared making agriculture initiatives more difficult, even though rising temperature and greening of the environment would be favorable. Fishermen also find difficulties in seal hunting because of thinning of the ice – whether it is too thin for going on a sledge or by foot, or still too thick to go by boat. Polar bears are facing the same problem and approach villages, therefore causing danger to the people living there. The climate change has also many positive effects pointed out by the locals. Fisheries benefit from climate change through growing fish stocks. Warming climate also makes it easier to introduce new forms of agriculture, new plants crops and new types of cattle into the Greenlandic landscape.

How will the environment and the society respond to arctic greening? How will environmental changes affect and does the society need to start some actions to protect and preserve natural habitats? Who would benefit more from that and how is this connected to climate change? Which effect will appear when the plantation of trees (someday?) starts. Climate change leads to increased atmospheric temperature in the future, but the incoming radiation energy from the sun will stay stable. Does a warmer climate mean a greener Greenland? Limitations in soil processes, soil nutrients and hydrology will rise up. Those question will be answered by observations performed by future scientists.

Relating changes in the society, locals might be find the challenge dealing with their culture and cultural history. Finding their roots will help to fill the missing gaps that helps Greenlanders to identify themselves in the world. There are already some positive actions taking place, young people are getting interested to learn Greenlandic language and hopefully with that more indigenous knowledge rises up. So if the youngsters are now investigating in growing their roots, later they will be able to grow up high, just like trees. Locals should be more included in different investigations of various expertise concerning their future. Of course more work is needed or events that are focused on Greenland. The Inuit Circumpolar Council, led by council president Mads Fægteborg, is trying to do their best to develop this culture.

The most important factor in dealing with a greener Arctic for the society will be the adaptation to a changed environment and if the society will develop economically and in their lifestyle in a greener future Anyhow,  adaptions will and have to take place and society will evolve to different directions, nevertheless still maintaining its indigenous habits one way or another and finding new ways for implementation their everyday life.

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