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Transmission of Environmental Knowledge and Land Skills in Adaptation Planning for Climate Change in the Arctic

Tristan Pearce, James Ford, Roland Notaina, Harold Wright, Adam Kudlak, and Barry Smit
Created: 4/29/2010 - Updated: 3/13/2019


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.

Published On

Friday, April 30, 2010


Tribal / First Nation
Sector Addressed: 
Climate Justice
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Culture / communities
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Climate Type: 
Sociopolitical Setting: 

Related Resources

Climate Change Adaptation for the Community of Ulukhaktok

Photo attributed toCambridgeBayWeather (assumed based on copyright claims). This work has been released into the public domain by its author. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Development (socioeconomic)
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure

Ulukhaktok is a small community of primarily Inuit people in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) of the western Canadian Arctic. Climate change is considered to be a significant challenge for Inuit communities and is already being experienced in the Canadian Arctic.

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