Transmission of Environmental Knowledge and Land Skills in Adaptation Planning for Climate Change in the Arctic
Research on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in the Arctic has shown that Inuit are exposed to climate change risks. Changes in seasonal patterns, precipitation, sea ice dynamics, and weather variability have affected the health and availability of some food species and have worsened risks associated with hunting and fishing. These changes have implications for food security and health, travel safety, and cultural activities. Climate change is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, with further effects on the social, economic, and political sectors of arctic communities (Anisimov et al., 2007; Lemmen et al., 2008). Inuit have a long history of coping with and adapting to the Arctic ecosphere. They are already adapting to emerging climatic risks, and will need to continue to do so (Ford et al., 2006a; Pearce et al., 2010).
Crucial to the ability to adapt is a profound knowledge of the Arctic environment, which affords Inuit dynamic and flexible use of the land and sea and their resources. There is a need for policy that supports the teaching and transmission of environmen tal knowledge and land skills in order to strengthen the competence of young Inuit, and therefore Inuit capacity to adapt to climate change. To plan for adaptation decision makers need to know what skills are important for safe and successful hunting under changing conditions, to what degree they are being transmitted, and what factors facilitate or impede transmission. Few studies have formally addressed this, and broad understanding of Inuit adaptability and how policy could assist adaptation is therefore limited. Our study conceptualizes the relationships between Inuit environmental knowledge and land skills, adaptive capacity, and adaptation planning in arctic communities. We have drawn upon research that empirically documented how environmental knowledge and land skills were transmitted among Inuit men in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories. We use the Ohmagari and Berkes (1997) definition of transmission: the process of transferring cultural items, such as skills, among individuals, where transmission success depends on the level of mastery of a particular item.