Barrow whalers distribute bowhead
meat to the community
Credit: NOAA Fisheries
Global warming could deliver new diseases, more contaminants, crushing stress and dangerous temperature extremes to rural Alaska and other small communities across the Arctic, according to a panel of Alaskans involved with assessing climate impact on health.
“Every day, as we know, news reports provide more evidence of the consequences of global warming from around the planet,” said Pam Miller, an organizer of the teleconference and executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “We also know that the arctic is warming faster than other parts of the world, accompanied by melting permafrost, thinning sea ice, increasing storm surges and coastal erosion. … Some Alaska coastal communities are facing disruption and expensive relocation.”
Most vulnerable will be the residents of rural villages, most of them Natives and First Nations people, who rely on subsistence food and local resources to make a living.
When contaminants get transported to the North on changing air and ocean currents, they end up in the food chain and migrate meal to meal into the bodies of people. When animal populations crash in number or shift to new habitat, local people must spend more time and resources to gather food.
“They are the most highly dependent subsistence population in the world,” said Dr. James Berner, science director in the Division of Community Health of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. “It is one of those areas where the changing climate has a direct daily impact on the lives of the people who live in it.”
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