Published on December 15th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance2
Climate Change Creates Inuit Need for Communal Deep Freezers
To survive in the harsh environment of the Arctic tundra, the Inuit people rely on hunting since few plants grow in the region. Whales, walruses, fish, and seal provide sustenance for these people often inappropriately labeled “Eskimos“. Seal is the most important part of the Inuit diet, and hunting season begins when the ice hardens. Storing the meat also depends on frigid temperatures. What happens to the Inuit way of life when climate change warms the Arctic?
Speaking at the Copenhagen climate talks, Violet Ford, a Canadian official of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), explained the need for funding to help the Inuits cope with a warming planet, “In Canada we see climate changes on a day to day basis…We want community deep freezers if the hunting patterns change so much that we can only go hunting a few times a year.” The ICC is calling for the establishment of “an International Climate Change Adaptation Fund financed by G20 countries to help citizens of the planet adapt to the inevitable changes and to accelerate technology transfer”. Such a fund could be used to provide Inuits with communal freezers, which the Inuits want powered by renewable energy.
Climate change is causing the Inuit people to seek alternative means of storing their meat, which is usually eaten frozen, raw, or boiled. Communal food sharing is a strong aspect of Inuit culture, thus the request for community freezers aligns with their beliefs, rather than individual freezers in each home. Wikipedia cites “Food and the Making of Modern Inuit Identities” by sociocultural anthropologist Edmund Searles on the communal nature of Inuit food:
Searles describes the Inuit perspective on food by saying that “in the Inuit world of goods, foods as well as other objects associated with hunting, fishing, and gathering are more or less communal property, belonging not to individuals but to a larger group, which can include multiple households.” Food in an Inuit household is not meant to be saved for the family who has hunted, fished, gathered, or purchased it, but instead for anyone who is in need of it. Searles and his wife were visiting a family in Iqaluit and he asked for permission to have a cup of orange juice. This small gesture of asking was taken as offensive because Inuit do not consider food belonging to one person.
Indigenous people living in the Arctic region are the first to be affected by climate change living in its “epicentre”. From shortened hunting seasons to food storage, their very survival and culture are threatened by warming global temperatures. Developed countries owe assistance to these people that treat “human beings, the land, animals and plants with equal respect“. It is their “moral responsibility”.