There is no word in the Inuit language for a robin, but suddenly, there are robins in Inuit territory — the vast, frozen lands of the Arctic. Mostly frozen, that is; this spring, there are bare spots in the tundra snow, just one of many signs that the far north is thawing. Other signs include receding glaciers, eroding coastlines, disappearing lakes, rising temperatures, and once-unheard of thunderstorms. None of those have escaped the attention of the Inuits, whose knowledge of the land used to be dismissed by the scientific community. Recently, however, scientists have begun to incorporate Inuit observations into studies of climate change. Canada has even mandated that government agencies take traditional knowledge into account when making land-use decisions. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t reverse climate change, which poses a dire threat to the Inuit way of life. “When you think in terms of the long-term negative effects of climate change, this could be the beginning of the end of the way of life for a whole people,” said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference of Canada.
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