Toronto November 24, 2010 Five years of social science research in Canada's arctic has taught one University of Guelph geography professor a thing or two about climate change's "human face."
Barry Smit is the Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change, and since 2005 he's studied how Arctic communities have tried to adapt to the rising temperatures caused by major shifts in global weather patterns.
The human dimension of climate change has long been understudied, says Smit, who is taking part this week in a panel discussion on the environment and economy at the first ever Canada Research Chairs conference in Toronto.
Over the course of two research projects one with ArcticNet and another with the International Polar Year project Smit has seen first-hand how Canada's Inuit have dealt with changing ice levels, wind speed, migration routes, and so on.
"It's already affecting the people who live there," says Smit about the impact of global warming.
"And they're having to figure out ways of adapting their livelihoods to face the changes caused by these changing conditions."
Some communities are seeing their dietary patterns evolve because the animals they've traditionally hunted have shifted their migratory patterns, says Smit. That shift has caused those communities to rely on grocery stores for their food and since the groceries found in Canada's arctic are often no better than "what we in the south would generally characterize as junk food," that's led to teeth problems and higher rates of diabetes, says Smit.
Part of the goal of his research, says Smit, is to challenge the idea that physical and social environments are completely unrelated. That's certainly not true, he says, if you look at how many Inuit relate to the ice they live on.
"The ice is their highway. And one of the thing they've noticed is that their highway is collapsing in places its never collapsed before," h
|Contact: Ryan Saxby Hill|
Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences