International News Desk – Traditional Inuit Diet is affected by Climate Change

Recent research into seventeen different Canadian Arctic communities shows that global warming is having an effect on the traditional Inuit diet. As a people who have subsisted on marine foods for thousands of years, it has been suggested that the Inuit have cause for health concerns now that southern foods are playing a bigger role in northern menus.

According to Dr. Christopher Furgal, a researcher from Laval University, the Inuit across Canada are “: finding it harder to get out as often as they normally would, less people are going hunting as frequently as they normally would, therefore decreasing the amount of hunting that they’re doing.” Global warming has caused this decrease in transportation, which in turn means heavier reliance on processed and packaged foods. As the polar ice caps melt, less stable ice conditions and more unexpected storms make for uncertain travel conditions that have led to less of the traditional hunting trips for seal and other marine mammals. Another factor is the changed behaviour of animal species in connection to climate change, such as migratory and breeding habits.

This is unfortunate, because a study of Inuit people in Nunavik, Quebec, has linked the traditional diet of marine mammals to reduced cardiovascular health issues and increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which protect against heart disease). Younger Inuit are turning to a non-traditional diet as hunting decreases and there is concern about what path to take. Should measures be taken to guarantee the availability of marine mammals in northern markets? Should a new and nutritionally balanced diet be promoted to Inuit communities? Certainly in either case, healthier foods need to be available in markets.

The distribution of fresh foods to northern Canada has historically been a challenge, since the northern growing season is short and people must rely on imports from other parts of the country and abroad. The biggest issue, as Indian and Northern Affairs Canada puts it, is that “many isolated First Nations and Inuit communities can’t be reached year-round, by road, rail or marine service. That can make it difficult for residents to buy affordable healthy food like fruits, vegetables, bread, milk and eggs.” With the decline in hunting due to climate change, things are looking grim for general Inuit health.

The question remains: How can a country like ours, which is so directly affected by climate change, be so indecisive about implementing Kyoto obligations? Doesn’t the government owe it to us to act fast?

What do you think the Inuit have to say about it?

REFERENCES:
Climate change prompts Inuit to reduce hunt, limit healthy foods –
http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2005/12/16/Inuit-food051216.html
Traditional Inuit diet cuts heart disease risk: study –
http://www.cbc.ca/story/news/?/news/2001/09/21/inuit_diet010921
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada: Health and Well Being –
http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/sg/sg4_e.html

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