By Clive Tesar
Climate change would be called undeniable, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people do deny it. In southern Alaska, large percentages of republican voters deny that it’s happening, according to a large phone survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire. The survey was presented here at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Akureyri Iceland.
But even that level of denial seems to pale beside the response from people in Kamchatka, according to research presented by Jessica Graybill of Colgate University. She’s spent time in the field in Kamchatka, talking to people both indigenous and what she calls ‘post-soviet’, people who were settled in the Russian Far East from other parts of Russia in the soviet days. Graybill says the people she interviewed were quite happy to talk about changes in natural resources, how they have to go further to hunt and fish, and how there is less game about. But mention climate change and it’s a different matter: “When climate change was raised, there was resistance – anger and disbelief in everyone.”
Graybill has some ideas about why this might be so. She thinks that people in Kamchatka are so weary of the changes imposed on them from outside, they are no longer willing to accept change. The many changes they’ve seen over the last several decades have led to social destruction and poverty. Graybill also thinks that people in Kamchatka still cling to the soviet idea of scientific progress, that science will solve everything, so there’s no need to worry.
None of this would be particularly worrisome if it wasn’t for the fact that climate change will happen whether we believe in it or not. If we choose not to believe it, because it will cause us too much stress or because it doesn’t fit the policies of our chosen political party, climate change will still march on. And while I have much sympathy for those who don’t want to believe, not believing means that they will not adequately prepare for the future changes coming to the arctic and the rest of the world.
The WWF Global Arctic Programme’s Head of Communications, Clive Tesar, attended the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Iceland in order to track trends and the latest information about the peoples of the Arctic, as they are so central to WWF’s conservation efforts in this area.