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THE DEVELOPING HUMAN ETHOS IN A CHANGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT: A North American Perspective David R. Klein, Professor Emeritus Institute of Arctic Biology,

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Presentation on theme: "THE DEVELOPING HUMAN ETHOS IN A CHANGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT: A North American Perspective David R. Klein, Professor Emeritus Institute of Arctic Biology,"— Presentation transcript:

1 THE DEVELOPING HUMAN ETHOS IN A CHANGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT: A North American Perspective David R. Klein, Professor Emeritus Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, Alaska, USA Arctic Visiting Speaker program: Supported by: Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation via the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS)

2 Alaska is the United States’ window on the Arctic Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867 and became the 49th state in 1959. Its closest neighbors are Canada and Russia.

3 Some other facts about Alaska: (Many of which bear similarities to Norway) Alaska is the largest of the United States (ca. 1.5 M km²) Oil is the major source of income for Alaska Alaska has the largest marine fisheries of any state It is the only state with land above the Arctic Circle Alaska has more unaltered natural environment than other states Tourism is Alaska’s fastest growing industry It has more area in National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and National Recreation Areas than all the rest of the United States Alaska has the highest mouintains in North America The population of Alaska is low, with about 620,000 people Native peoples of Alaska, the Eskimos, Indians, and Aleuts, make up about 17% of the population of the state

4 In recent decades, Norway has played a pioneering role in the development of a natural philosophy that focuses on respect for the environment and it continues to be a major player in the global effort toward achieving sustainability of the Earth’s life support systems. Arne Naess 1996 Gro Harlem Brundtland Al Gore

5 How is the changing climate influencing the environment of Alaska and the Arctic, and the people who live there?

6 Climate warming in the Arctic is thawing permafrost Tuktoyuktuk Peninsula Northwest Territory Canada

7 Extent of permafrost

8 The photos taken 2 hours apart show accelerated coastal erosion during a storm that threatens a village on Alaska’s northwest coast. It is caused by absence of sea ice, and thawing of permafrost. Thawing of permafrost in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic is causing damage to buildings and other infrastructure, including threats to entire communities This appartment building in northern Siberia has been damaged beyond repair by thawing of the underlying permafrost The red arrow points to the same object

9 The Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline was elevated in areas of ice-rich permafrost. Passive refrigeration units were inserted into the support pilings which supercooled the surrounding permafrost in winter, thus preventing thawing of the permafrost in summer. In the oil field, however, the oil industry has had to re-design and modify oil production facilities to compensate for warming of the permafrost.

10 The low-lying coastal lands adjacent to the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean in Alaska are vulnerable to erosion by wave action and the rising sea level. Extreme high tides generated by spring storms and rising sea level can also cause flooding and bird nesting failure. These wet lands are among the most productive in North America for nesting waterfowl and shore birds, and are a major source of fish for the subsistence economy of Yupik and Inupiaq Eskimos

11 Several hundred million birds migrate to the Arctic each summer Breeding success of these birds in the Arctic determines their populations in wintering areas at lower latitudes Rising sea-level is eroding or flooding many coastal nesting areas The tundra nesting and rearing areas are decreasing as treeline advances northward Major routes of migration of arctic nesting birds

12 The high mountains adjacent to the southern coast of Alaska include more ice on land, in ice fields and glaciers, than any other region of the world at such a relatively low latitude Melting of this glacier ice has accellerated with climate warming and accounts for the major portion of the sea level rise of about one centimeter in the past 30 years Columbia Glacier Prince William Sound 1970

13 In interior areas of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic climate warming has resulted in longer and dryer summers with increased and more extensive wildfires

14 This map shows the distribution and frequency of fires on the land areas of the world during recent years Many of the fires in the Southern Hemisphere are associated with human land-use practices. In Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, lightning-caused forest fires have increased in recent years due to warmer, longer, and drier summers.

15 The warming climate and increased loss of moisture in summer through evaporation and transpiration in the transition zone between forest and tundra in Alaska, Canada, and Russia are resulting in increased frequency and extent of wild fires Selawik Flats, Alaska fire 1988

16 Fires in treeless tundra areas usually burn the above ground parts of grass-like plants and shrubs which can then re-grow from the roots, but lichens, the primary winter food of reindeer and caribou, are usually killed and require 50 or more years to return 1977 1978 Lichens Shrubs

17 Arctic and sub-arctic plants are physiologically and genetically adapted to brief periods of climatic extremes Responses of plants to a changing climate, however, will be gradual and will influence the quality and quantity of plant tissues as forage for caribou and other herbivores

18 Climate warming interferes with migration of caribou to their calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

19 In North America, wildlife have provided a major focus for protection of natural areas through recognition that wildlife require secure habitats for the sustainability of their populations where food, shelter, and breeding areas are available

20 Climate warming has enabled red foxes to expand their distribution into the coastal regions of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic of Alaska where they are displacing arctic foxes Red fox Arctic fox

21 Climate-induced changes are occurring more rapidly at sea than on land, altering ecosystem relationships

22 Murre/gullimot colonies Circle size indicates relative number of birds in the colony With warming of the seas and loss of ice, sea birds are expected to move northward in much of the Arctic Sea birds, however, need cliffs or bluffs for secure nesting, and in many areas of the Arctic there are no such sites north of existing ones

23 In the marine environment of the Arctic, the decline and thinning of sea ice is having a major effect on marine mammals, resulting in less secure maternal den sites for polar bears and ringed seals, stranding of polar bears on land, and reduced feeding opportunities for walrus over the coastal shelf

24 Biological productivity is highest at the ice edge 1.Primary producers (plankton) at the ice edge filter down through the water column 2.At the bottom (benthic environment) life is stimulated by the productivity above 3.Pelagic invertebrates feed on the micro-organisms 4.Fish and other invertebrates feed in the water column and at the bottom 5.Marine mammals and birds are at the upper levels of these food webs

25 At all levels of the food chain in the marine environment of the Arctic, life is effected by the sea ice and its seasonal variation

26 Understanding the consequences of climate change in the marine environment of the Arctic will require a major international research effort Weighing a tranquilized polar bear to assess body condition and growth near Svalbard A beluga whale is released after being netted and a radio transmitter has been attached Here, scientists from the Norwegian Polar Center do research on marine mammals



29 During the bowhead whale harvest by Inupiaq hunters off the north coast of Alaska, scientists from the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska collect tissue samples for studies of health status and genetics Dept. Wildlife Management, North Slope Burough

30 Humpback whales feeding and diving Coastal areas of Alaska offer increased potential for tourism Whale watching and charter boat fishing for salmon and halibut are important to local economies, but distribution of these mammals and fish are expected to change as the marine waters warm

31 As sea ice declines, planning is needed based on habitat use patterns by marine wildlife for regulating use of new shipping routes for: Limiting ice breaker activity in breeding habitats of seals and polar bears Tour ship routing for good experiences with minimal affect on wildlife Restricting bottom trawling in benthic feeding areas needed by walrus Establishment of ports and shore facilities that minimize affect on wildlife The Russian port of Dudinka on the Yenisey R., Northern Sea Route A US Coast Guard ice breaker north of Alaska

32 The Arctic has become the focus for development: Regional development plans that relate to the marine environment should include both national and international perspectives because human activities near the land—sea interface may affect marine ecosystems through pollution, disruption of fisheries, and influences on marine wildlife A Labrador fishing port Tourist ship in the Bering Sea

33 Assessing wildlife populations, their movements, habitat conditions, and patterns of human use are also critical for assessment of impacts of proposed development projects Assessments are necessary prior to decisions on design and authorization of the projects, to avoid or minimize detrimental impacts on wildlife and their sustainability Testing an exploration well at Prudhoe Bay in 1969 Mineral exploration in northern Greenland at a zinc prospect, 2002

34 Oil exploration causes major disturbances to wildlife, but it is the longer term cumulative effects of oil development that has resulted in the obstruction of movements of caribou and has displaced caribou and other wildlife from critical habitat areas, with associated population declines.

35 Protection of the environment has long been accepted by cultures throughout the world as essential for the sustainability of their societies. In the Arctic, the changing climate and other pressures on the environment are mandating the need for increased efforts to protect the unique biodiversity and sustained productivity of Arctic ecosystems. An Inupiaq Eskimo festival at the start of the whaling season, Kaktovik, Alaska

36 Indigenous people of the Arctic continue to be dependent on the biological productivity of the lands and waters of the Arctic for their subsistence-based life styles Efforts toward management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic must be adaptable to those changes taking place in the natural environment, as well as to changes that are taking place among human societies Greenland country food market A main street in Kotzebue, Alaska

37 A meeting of the Canadian Porcupine Caribou Management Board in Yukon Territory, Canada. Quitchin Athabaskan and Inuit peoples have majority membership on this co-management board

38 Modes of travel in roadless areas of the North have cultural roots, but Northern cultures are changing rapidly and are adopting the technology of Western society that offers modes of mechanized travel appropriate for the Northern undeveloped landscapes, but not without problems What is traditional?

39 A Yupik Eskimo woman on the Bering Sea coast preparing seal skins that are used to cover boat frames and for making boots and clothing

40 Arctic peoples have long been undergoing change in their cultures and life styles brought about by pressures from the expanding industrialized world to the south. In recent decades the homeland of arctic peoples has been experiencing a new kind of change as a consequence of global climate warming, nessessitating major adaptations if their cultures and communities are to survive

41 Wildlife in the Arctic provides the connection between residents of the Arctic and their cultural past. In the urban environment of today’s world our ecological connections to the environment that supports us has become obscured. A country food market in Greenland where hunters sell meat of wild reindeer, seals, and sea birds Meat in an urban super market tells the shopper little about the animals and people that produced the meat

42 How are people whose cultures have developed in northern areas responding to the changes in their environment that are caused by global climate change? Inupiaq Eskimoes on the Arctic coast of Alaska cellebrating the beginning of the annual whale hunt. Their traditional way of hunting whales is dependent on sea ice when the whales arrive.

43 CONCLUSIONS Today's Arctic is characterized by altered climate and associated changes in the marine and terrestrial environments, by increased pressures from outside of the Arctic for resource extraction and commercial development, and by the rapid cultural change of peoples dwelling in the Arctic. Lands and waters of the Arctic, valued as wilderness by those dwelling outside of the Arctic are, homelands of indigenous people throughout much of the Arctic. Whether “homelands” or “wilderness” these Arctic regions are undergoing accelerated change.

44 Residents of the Arctic see the changes taking place in their environment that are being driven by the changing climate. They do want to be active participants in efforts, both nationally and internationally, to assist in their own adaptation to the changing environment. They also want to play an active role in influencing policy directed at mitigating the intensity of human contribution to global climate change. Wherever we may live, we need to understand our role in the world in which we live. Although human cultural evolution has been largely based on alteration of the natural environment, we need to be aware of both the magnitude and consequences of our alteration of the environment at local and global scales.

45 We cannot, however, assess the consequences of our actions without understanding the processes of ecological systems and their complexity, ecosystems of which we are a part, and within which we continue to play increasingly dominant roles. It is essential for the future of human society that education within the schools at all levels be aimed at enabling all individuals to understand themselves as biological organisms within complex ecosystems that are interconnected globally.

46 The majority of the American public want a favorable forecast for the future and they remain in denial about the serious nature of global climate change A majority of the people who live outside of the Arctic do not share the urgent concern of Arctic residents over the consequences of global climate warming.

47 “Education of our youth is all important to enable them to adapt to and manage, if possible, the changed world we will be leaving them” My perspective as an elder

48 Education must address the complexity of the biological and physical components of the world

49 Humility is a prerequisite to wisdom

50 Acknowlegements: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks Photo credits: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Norwegian Polar Center, Trømso, Norway Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska Porcupine Caribou Management Board, Whitehorse; Yukon Territory, Canada David R. Klein, Fairbanks, Alaska Financial support: Arctic Visiting Speaker Program Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS)

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