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melissajasmineanto
Jan 07, 2022
In Travel Forum
Melissa Antony Climate change is impacting the circumpolar north at a rate of two to three times quicker than the rest of the world. (Boone, 2010, 2) While these changes may seem irrelevant or invisible to most, they are highly evident for people that live in the circumpolar north and rely on the environment for hunting, fishing, and other subsistence practices for survival. The environments and wildlife populations are visibly being affected which in turn affects the communities that rely on them. Increasing temperatures, floods and wildfires, precipitation variations, permafrost thaw, shifts in animal migration patterns, the spread of diseases, along with a long list of other impacts threaten the existence of the majority of the unique species of flora and fauna and communities in the circumpolar north. (Fischlin et. Al, 2007) Resource exploitation and development have played a major role in the devastation of circumpolar environments. (Boone, 2010, 2) But also, the impacts of climate change as a global affair requires a global effort to reduce carbon emissions, shift practices towards cleaner, greener energy solutions in the short-term while communities in the circumpolar north wait for global partners to comprehend the urgency. In a recent CBC article from November 2021, the drastic effects of climate change on the community of Old Crow in the Yukon Territory, highlights the vulnerability of northern communities, flora and fauna and the necessity for adaptation at extreme measures. Food security has become an issue both for animals and people in Old Crow as a result of temperature increases and resultantly less snow or rain in exchange of snow. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) Climate change for Old Crow means that lifestyles are being altered in a way that becomes unsustainable without change and adaptation. For example, the Porcupine caribou herd, which the community relies on for hunting and food security, is not following its typical migration patterns and the population is depleting. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) The caribou rely on the lichen on the ground which becomes inaccessible when trapped under ice because of freezing rain, a growing concern over the past years due to temperature increases. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) Willow shrubs also seem to be affecting the caribou populations. Due to warmer, wetter weather, willows seem to be growing taller and thicker than in the past. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) Scientists are exploring if this may be an additional contributor to shifting migration patterns since thicker willow shrubs block off access to berry patches and trails. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) The vulnerabilities of communities, flora and fauna are further evident in research being conducted in other regions across the circumpolar north. A study released today by University of Manitoba researcher, Michelle McCrystall, suggests that in the next 80 years by 2100 rainfall will overtake snow in the Arctic presenting “severe consequences for the region’s environment, its people, and its animals”. (Tranter, 2021) The study says rainfall in place of snow would cause “catastrophic starvation events” for caribou, reindeer and muskox due to the inability of foraging on ice-covered ground. (Tranter, 2021) The intimate connection between wildlife and people in the north would also impact northern communities greatly as they depend on these animals for subsistence. McCrystall highlights that previous projections suggested rainfall would occur in the Arctic because of climate change, however not at the rate it is currently being observed. (Tranter, 2021) The intensified rates of rain in the Arctic mean that “mitigating measures, including the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius are even more critical”. (Tranter, 2021) The article emphasizes that McCrystall wants the study “to serve as a further wake-up call for world leaders to meet global climate targets” and “as a further example of why we need these global climate policies”. (Tranter, 2021) The connection between humans and the environment in the north is strong, deeply-rooted and vulnerable to climate change impacts. Beyond local food sources, the fly-in community of Old Crow relies on a single grocery store that flies in goods and produce which can be purchased at high price due to the shipping costs. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) Most of the energy and food supply in the community is sourced by external providers including diesel as the main energy source. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) Diesel is flown in “several times a year to power the communities generator which produces emissions equivalent to 500 transatlantic flights annually”. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) This is a harsh reality for most northern communities, yet colonization, development and climate change have led northerners to rely on outside sources. Recognizing that climate change is impacting the local flora and fauna so drastically, some northern communities are taking measures to set the tone globally for others to act and follow suit. After declaring a climate emergency, the small community of 250 in Old Crow installed a solar farm that will save 189,000 litres of diesel fuel over the course of a year. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) They are also considering the feasibility of wind power during the winter when solar is unavailable and willow shrubs as a source of fuel. (Arsenault & Sheldon, 2021) While impacts on human health and the connection to the environment are in the beginning stages of revealing the breadth and depth of climate change impacts, the vulnerability of northern flora, fauna and communities is already highly evident at the current stage. Nonetheless, geopolitics are currently focused on the circumpolar north as a new frontier for exploitation of resources and capital gain. Consideration of the impacts of climate change as a global phenomenon should be taken more seriously and acted upon as the circumpolar north is an alarming example of climate change and the vulnerability of entire ecosystems. Sources: Arsenault, Adrienne, and Mia Sheldon. “In Taking Action on Climate, This Arctic Community Wants to Be a Beacon to the World | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 8 Nov. 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/old-crow-yukon-climate-change-1.6238750. Boone, Richard D. “Chapter 7: Climate Change.” BSC 100 Introduction to the Circumpolar World, University of the Arctic, 2010, pp. 1–32. Fischlin, A., G.F. Midgley, J.T. Price, R. Leemans, B. Gopal, C. Turley, M.D.A. Rounsevell, O.P. Dube, J. Tarazona, A.A. Velichko, 2007: Ecosystems, their properties, goods, and services. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 211-272. Tranter, Emma. “Study Suggests Arctic to See More Rain than Snow Earlier than Expected.” Port Alberni Valley News, The Canadian Press, 1 Dec. 2021, https://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/study-suggests-arctic-to-see-more-rain-than-snow-earlier-than-expected/.
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melissajasmineanto
Jan 07, 2022
In Travel Forum
Wolverine Mine ©Yukon Government, 2021 Geographic Location: 60° 10' 17'' North , 133° 54' 37'' West In recent years China has expressed a growing interest in the Circumpolar North with the aspiration of becoming a “polar great power” by 2030 (Doshi et al. 2021) This ambition has gained international attention as China has “sent high-level figures to the region 33 times in the past two decades, engaged or joined most major Arctic institutions, sought a half dozen scientific facilities in Arctic states, pursued a range of plausibly dual-use economic projects, expanded its icebreaker fleet, and even sent its naval vessels into the region”. (Doshi et al. 2021) Indeed, China is highly interested in the extraction of resources as the Arctic opens up as a new frontier for exploitation. Furthermore, military interests also seem to be a top priority. China has built various heavy icebreakers and is looking at developing state of the art equipment to gain advantage and power in Arctic regions. “Chinese companies have also sought to purchase an old naval base in Greenland; to build three airports in Greenland; to build Scandinavia’s largest port in Sweden; to acquire (successfully) a Swedish submarine base to link Finland and the wider Arctic to China through rail; and to do the same with a major port and railway in Arkhangelsk in Russia”. (Doshi et al. 2021) Clearly, China’s interests in the Arctic are widespread and ambitions of gaining power and economic influence in the region are aggressive. Beyond some successes in the beginning stages of developing relationships with Northern governments, growing criticism by the Arctic 8 countries has led to much skepticism and pushback on any collaboration in the Arctic region. In January 2018, China published the Arctic White Paper which defines China’s policy goals in the region. The White Paper “defines China as a “near-Arctic state” which has legitimate rights in the region- and argues that Arctic states should respect these rights including the right to conduct scientific research, navigate, perform flyovers, fish, lay submarine cables and pipelines, and even explore and exploit natural resources in the Arctic high seas”. (Kopra, 2020) China was granted observer status at the Arctic Council in 2013 by the Arctic states due to their extensive efforts over the past decade, but has since gained the reputation of having a “globalist vision of the Arctic”. (Kopra, 2020) One specific example is China’s involvement in the mining industry in Canada including the purchase of a zinc, a nickel and an iron mine. The first investment in mining in Canada was at a zinc mine in the Yukon by Jinduicheng Molybdenum Group (JDC) which “ended disastrously with the mine losing $100 million, the refusal to clean up the mine, leaving behind an environmental disaster that will cost more than $35 million to clean up”. (Doshi et al. 2021) Experiences of collaboration with other Arctic 8 countries have also soured as the Chinese have demonstrated coercive behaviours through threats and attempts at suing Arctic governments. The scenario in the Yukon is unfortunately a complex matter as the environmental disaster doesn’t seem to concern Chinese officials as they place the blame on Canada and the Yukon claiming “the Canadian provinces did not disclose the full picture about the mining environment, namely the risks and challenges, and that this led to misinformed decisions” also complaining that “they were unable to bring Chinese labourers to Canada and were relying on Canadian labour”. (Doshi et al. 2021) With the Yukon being a self-governing territory, the capacity to respond to such a powerful entity is complex and therefore minimal. According to one source, “Devolution meant gaining authority over mining mishaps authorized by the Yukon Government” versus “JDC has the biggest open mic mine in Asia with a reserve life of more than a hundred years. JDC is a publicly traded state owned enterprise with strong support from both Chinese state and provincial governments”. (Halliday, 2020) In this scenario, it is clear that the governance of the circumpolar north with various governance structures, devolution or even Indigenous or regional autonomous governments as players in decision-making and stewardship responsibilities, need to remain united and informed of geopolitics to effectively protect and sustain the Circumpolar North. I chose China’s interests in the circumpolar north as my topic since I recently listened to a podcast on this subject. I was blown away by some of the examples of threats and interactions with the Arctic 8 countries that are highlighted in the report by Doshi et al. and also learning about the environmental disaster that resulted here in the Yukon at the Wolverine Mine. I think this example shows a devastating example of exploitation of an environment where outside interests are primarily focused on capital gain. It is absolutely frustrating to hear that these Chinese officials have basically wiped their hands clean and walked away from destroying pristine wilderness that the Arctic flora and fauna rely on and for the Yukon government to clean up. I don’t agree that this should be allowed and I am pleased to hear that there’s pushback on any further collaboration. References Doshi, Rush, et al. “Northern Expedition: China's Arctic Activities and Ambitions .” Brookings, Brookings Edu, Apr. 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/FP_20210412_china_arctic.pdf. (Primary Document) Halliday, Keith. “Yukonomist: Three Questions on Yukon Zinc and China.” Yukon News, Yukon News, 20 Feb. 2020, https://www.yukon-news.com/opinion/yukonomist-three-questions-on-yukon-zinc-and-china/. (Secondary Literature) Kopra, Sanna, and Sanna Kopra. “China and Its Arctic Trajectories: The Arctic Institute's China Series 2020.” The Arctic Institute, The Arctic Institute, 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/china-arctic-trajectories-the-arctic-institute-china-series-2020/. (Tertiary Literature)
Circumpolar North: China as a "Polar Great Power" content media
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melissajasmineanto
Jan 07, 2022
In Travel Forum
©"17-Caribou_no_impact" by Erika Hall is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Location: 68.4314° N, 143.6910° W The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is located in Northeastern Alaska along the border of the Yukon and the Beaufort Sea and consists of 19,300,000 acres (78,000 km²) of pristine, untouched wilderness that spans five different ecological regions. (New World Encyclopedia, 2021). In fact, the ANWR supports the greatest diversity of flora and fauna than any other protected area within the Arctic Circle. The Refuge, created in 1960 under President Eisenhower is home to many diverse Arctic species including fish, caribou, muskoxen, wolverines, wolves, sea lions, seals, otters and more than 160 migratory and resident bird species. (New World Encyclopedia, 2021) In the early twenty-first century, the refuge became controversial territory as environmentalists and oil companies disputed drilling in the area. The government of the United States governs the refuge under public law and manages leases for development and production in the area. Prior to the Trump Administration, drilling in the ANWR was prohibited however in December 2017, the passage of Public Law 115-97, administered “a competitive oil and natural gas program for the leasing, development, production and transportation of oil and natural gas”. (Reinke, 2018) In Trump’s final days in office, leases for drilling oil and gas were “auctioned off” (Gibbens, 2021) According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the oil fields would take three to four years to reach peak oil production, after which they should maintain peak production for three to four years and then decline until they reach a point where they are no longer profitable.” (Reinke, 2018) As a non-renewable resource, this approximately decade-long project would massively affect the vulnerable species, plants and waterways in the area for immediate use of the oil and gas. For many reasons, oil drilling in the ANWR is absolutely not sustainable and since there are other greener options for energy, the government should focus time and energy in developing solar, wind, and hydro-energy sources rather than continuing to extract oil which has proven to have devastating effects on the environment. I do feel that oil extraction fits under the “tragedy of the commons” abuse scenario as the Trump Administration sought to carry out this project without concern for the future of the unique, valuable and significant flora and fauna in the ANWR or the planet. While the Biden Administration has put a halt to the project, a final resolution has not been determined and environmentalists are “pushing the administration to cancel the leases entirely and adopt more permanent protections for the wilderness area” (Gibbens, 2021). I chose to write this postcard as I feel it is an extremely significant oil extraction project that could greatly affect the future of the circumpolar north. The ANWR as a significant breeding ground for the caribou and many bird species should be protected at all costs. Also, if there are other solutions to energy, why aren’t the governments focusing more on long-term sustainability as opposed to these “tragedy of the commons” abuse scenarios. Considering that the caribou and birds also migrate into the Yukon, the immediate impacts on the environment extend beyond the United States. The Reinke article states that “the oil taken from the ANWR would be a lighter crude oil not ideally suited for West Coast refineries” and therefore “could not be refined or used in the US” and it would “make more sense to export the oil”. (Reinke, 2018) It is frustrating to think that governments would risk the environment to the brink of extinction for monetary value and not even something that is an absolute necessity to their people. I would suggest that important leaders take a stand on promoting green energy, stewardship and sustainability to start a positive trend for others to follow. Sources: “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - New World Encyclopedia, 5 Nov. 2021, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Arctic_National_Wildlife_Refuge. Gibbens, Sarah. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Just Got a Reprieve-but It's Not Safe Yet.” Environment, National Geographic, 3 June 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-oil-drilling-what-next. Reinke, Jeff. “A Closer Look at Drilling the ANWR.” Thomasnet® - Product Sourcing and Supplier Discovery Platform - Find North American Manufacturers, Suppliers and Industrial Companies, 15 June 2018, https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/a-closer-look-at-drilling-the-anwr/. Location Source: “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Nov. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_National_Wildlife_Refuge. Special Source Challenge: Chapin III, F. Stuart, et al. “Ecosystem Stewardship: A Resilience Framework for Arctic Conservation.” Global Environmental Change, vol. 34, 10 July 2015, pp. 207–217., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.07.003.
Circumpolar North: Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge content media
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melissajasmineanto
Jan 07, 2022
In Travel Forum
©"Polar Bear and Tundra Buggy - Churchill, Manitoba" by TravelingOtter is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Location: 58º N 94º W Churchill, MB, located in northern Manitoba “the polar bear capital of the world” is well-known as a popular tourist destination for viewing polar animals in their natural habitat. The Western Hudson Bay subpopulation of polar bears is the most common attraction as they spend a large part of the year on land along the shores of the community of Churchill due to the complete annual ice melt in the region (Dawson et al., 2010, 320) As the polar bears wait for freeze-up, starving, they spread out along the bay, providing easy access from the town for tourists to observe them. As a result of the reduction in sea ice, the polar bear population has also been in decline. Projections of lengthened delays of freeze up raise concerns as to whether Polar bears will become extinct, making them a key symbol of global climate change. The Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) and the Wapusk National Park were both established in the 1990s to protect polar bear habitats and denning areas. Furthermore, Manitoba listed polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of Manitoba” (Dawson et al., 2010, 323). Annually, an approximate 12,000 tourists pour around $7.2 million into the local economy coming to view Polar Bears. (D’Souza et al. 2021, 6) Ironically, travel and support of such viewing experiences in Churchill contributes to the demise of the polar bears and the polar environment through carbon dioxide emissions. The small town of Churchill with a population of just approximately 1000 people can only be accessed by rail, flight or ship which means that tourists are travelling thousands of kilometres to reach the town’s remote location. A report released in 2008 by UNWTO-UNEP-WMO estimated “that the tourism industry contributes approximately 5% of total global carbon dioxide emissions”. (Dawson et al., 2010, 322) This estimate increased 10% already within a decade by 2018. (D’Souza et al. 2021, 13) The implications and impacts of climate change weighed heavily on the community of Churchill when the train tracks linking Canada’s only Arctic deep water port were wiped out due to heavy flooding. The increase of air travel into the community along with the considerations of financial and social disruptions for the city had a lasting impact: fears of increased food prices, unaffordable gasoline or options for leaving Churchill as living costs increased substantially due the unavailability of rail travel while wages remained the same. (MacIntosh, 2018) Nonetheless, the vision to re-invent the port and rail connection has become a key priority as the warming North means “longer shipping seasons” and the potential for shipping oil. Along with Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the President of the Arctic Gateway Group celebrated the arrival of the first train to run again to Churchill since the floods claiming: “We need to recognize as a country that robust demand in foreign markets will make us need to use all our ports. We think a natural resource corridor for Western Canada is important.”- Arctic Gateway Group President Murad Al-Katib (MacIntosh, 2018) I chose the declining polar bear population and the flooding of the railway from Winnipeg to Churchill, MB as a climate change impact since it is an interesting example of how climate change is affecting the region as a whole in ripple effects: from the impacts on the natural environment to failing infrastructure to the vulnerability of a community relying primarily on polar tourism or natural resource exploitation. I travelled with my son to Churchill 3 years ago on train, went on a tundra buggy tour, kayaked with the belugas and certainly provided my personal contribution to the carbon dioxide emissions in a vulnerable environment. I am unsure at this point how to process what I learnt during the research process of writing this postcard. I certainly wasn’t aware of the breadth of the impacts and feel that scientific data on climate change realities should be shared with the wider population in greater detail. Sources: Dawson, Jackie, et al. “The Carbon Cost of Polar Bear Viewing Tourism in Churchill, Canada.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 18, no. 3, 2010, pp. 319–336., https://doi.org/10.1080/09669580903215147. D’Souza, Jamie, et al. “Last Chance Tourism: A Decade Review of a Case Study on Churchill, Manitoba’s Polar Bear Viewing Industry.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2021, pp. 1–19., https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2021.1910828. MacIntosh, Cameron. “Churchill Residents Rejoice as Rail Service Gets Back on Track | Cbc News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/churchill-rail-service-returns-november-1.4887333.
Circumpolar North: Last Chance Polar Tourism content media
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melissajasmineanto
Jan 07, 2022
In Travel Forum
©"Hart River" by peelwatershed is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 Location: 61°51′15″N 137°15′13″W The Peel River Watershed is a significant watershed contributing to arctic and boreal biodiversity in the northern Yukon. The Yukon portion of the watershed is uninhabited and one of the last undeveloped wilderness regions in the world. The watershed covers approximately 70, 000 square kilometres of boreal forest and tundra and is unique because it hosts an ecosystem that “stands at the junction of Beringia and the ice-free corridor and was thus a fundamentally critical crossroads in the distribution and exchange of organisms” (Berger, n.d.). The watershed has one of the most complex histories of glaciation in North America forming over various glacial events. (Meikle & Waterreus, 2008) The Peel River, itself, “was blocked by ice several times during the Pleistocene, forming large lakes. On at least two occasions these lakes overflowed around the north of the Ogilvie Mountains forming a contiguous watershed with the westward-flowing Yukon River, resulting in an exchange of organisms between otherwise separated drainages of the Yukon and the Mackenzie”. (Berger, 7) As a result, even today, the ecosystem boasts high biodiversity and some of the most unique species in the world including varieties of fish, trees, grizzlies, hares, ground squirrels, mushrooms, caribou, multiple moss species found nowhere else along with many other highly diverse flora and fauna. I chose local references to learn more about the Peel River Watershed. Since it has been an area subject to controversial land use planning and was even taken to the Supreme Court, I felt that a great deal of research had gone into developing these reports. It would have been nice to read more about local First Nations perspectives. References: Berger, Joel, and Brodie F Jedediah. CPAWS, The Peel River Watershed: Ecological Crossroads and Beringian Hotspot of Arctic and Boreal Biodiversity, 130ncw3ap53r1mtmx23gorrc-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/69/2019/08/Brodie_Peel_Watershed_Science_Report.pdf. Meikle, John C, and Marcus B Waterreus. Government of the Yukon, 2008, pp. 1–66, Ecosystems of the Peel Watershed, yukon.ca/sites/yukon.ca/files/env/env-ecosystems-peel-watershed.pdf. Querengesser, Tim. “In the Supreme COURT'S Peel WATERSHED Decision, Signs of Hope for a New Land Power Paradigm.” Canadian Geographic, 12 Dec. 2017, www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/supreme-courts-peel-watershed-decision-signs-hope-new-land-power-paradigm.
Circumpolar North: The Peel River Watershed content media
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melissajasmineanto
Oct 06, 2020
In Travel Forum
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