120° W Nunavut, Canada

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“Our cultural heritage is at stake here. We are an adaptable people. We have over the millennium been able to adapt to incredible circumstances. But I think adaptability has its limits. If the ice is not forming, how else does one adapt to seasons that are not as they used to be when the whole environment is changing underneath our feet, literally?”

— Sheila Watt-Cloutier, president of the circumpolar conference

The white north communities are waiting longer for a winter that is not as cold as it used to be. The Inuit people are watching how their mountains are becoming bare without their usual cap of snow and observing changes in animal migration and their living habits. According to Environment Canada, in the past 40 years, Canada’s western Arctic has warmed up by 1.5 degrees Celsius. An interesting effect that climate change has had on the Inuit people of Canada is in their lifestyle and traditional knowledge. These people have survived on information and traditions passed by generations including climate reading, animal behavior, and survival during the seasons. Because of the climate changing so drastically, not only has the weather become harder for them to read but the animals that they hunt and study for season changes are acting differently, getting sick, and are not as abundant as they used to be. This has caused anxiety and uncertainty, mostly in the older people in the community, since the knowledge that has been keeping them alive for generations has been rendered almost useless.

Since then, Nunavut’s climate has gone up another approximate 1.2 degrees. The reduced sea ice has brought the possibility of more shipping in Nunavut, however, this may mean that more oil spills can occur in the future, further affecting the fauna and marine ecosystems that these people depend on for food and survival. Many of the Nunavut’s residences were built on permafrost, but as this one thaws, many families are facing dangerous conditions and uncertain ground under their feet. Additionally, precipitation has gotten stronger recently, causing major floods and damage to the community’s infrastructure. It is beyond doubt that the residents of Nunavut and the Intuit are witnessing the firsthand effects of an Earth that is warming up.