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. While at the conference, he posted a series of blogs – this is the first.
By Clive Tesar
Some people say WWF spends too much time talking about charismatic megafauna (a fancy way of saying interesting big animals). There is a reason we do that; if that’s what interests people then that’s how we start the conversation about conservation. In the Arctic, you’ll see us talking about walrus, about whales, and of course about polar bears. But I’m in Akureyri, Iceland right now to talk about another species of charismatic arctic megafauna – people.
The International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences meets only once every three years. It is important for WWF to be here to track the trends and latest information about the peoples of the Arctic, because they are central to our conservation efforts. Unless we work with them, and unless our conservation solutions work for them, our arctic work will be tough sledding. The Congress has brought experts from as far afield as China to talk about the people of the Arctic, their aspirations, their impacts, their societies, their adaptations to a fast changing world.
I picked up a snippet of Arctic changes today, and how they are affecting people. It is cold here in Akureyri, colder than usual in the summer. They’ve yet to crack double digits in the temperature, and it’s late June. The arctic terns, I was told today, are not yet breeding. Local people are worried if the birds don’t breed soon, then a whole generation could miss the long flight back to the Antarctic. They worry about the effects of that on the ecosystems here.
I was also told that local fishermen along this north coast of Iceland are usually expecting to fish for krill this time of year – but none have shown up so far, and the fishermen think colder than usual water is to blame. And what’s causing the exceptional cold? The theory I heard is that the unusual warmth northwest of here keeps the Arctic Ocean ice free for longer, and that the increased amounts of open water there have changed weather patterns here. This is the sort of uncertain world that the social scientists have gathered to dissect.