Shaping the future Arctic with the Last Ice Area
When we think about conservation in action, we often think about the more ‘glamorous’ stuff – the kind of field work that involves tagging narwhal or tracking poachers. But there’s another side of conservation, which probably makes up the majority of the work – meetings. Getting the right people in the room and giving them important information, making sure they have the best science available as they make decisions.
That’s what has brought me to Iqaluit (where it has been snowing all night and all day, by the way). I’m here to help out with a workshop WWF is hosting on the Last Ice Area – the project that has been the focus of Arctic Home campaigns with Coca-Cola. Thanks to generous donations from Canadians and Coca-Cola, WWF has been able to support important research on this region, home to a resilient patch of Arctic sea ice that will be critical to the future of many Arctic communities and species.
Now that the first round of research is complete, we’re sharing it with the decision-makers for the region –indigenous peoples, including Inuit of Nunavut and Greenland, and governments – to help shape their discussions and plans. Experts will present their research findings to help make sure decision-makers have all the information and insight they need to start discussing the best way to manage this important region.
It’s far from a simple decision. These leaders will be asked to balance the needs of their communities, many of which are remote and have few economic opportunities, with protecting their traditions – and the habitat and wildlife on which they depend. A new mine may bring jobs and investment, but it may limit access to traditional hunting grounds, or reduce the area available for walrus haul-outs. New offshore oil exploration may bring new research and understanding on this isolated area, but it could also impact migration groups of Arctic whales – and a spill would be dangerous for both wildlife and the people that rely on local species for food and livelihood.
To make things even more complicated, it’s sometimes hard to know where different needs and uses overlap – which is why WWF used funds raised through the Arctic Home campaign to fund research that would help us learn more about all of these issues. Some of the studies looked at the social, economic and cultural uses of the Last Ice Area in Canada and Greenland. And to put that information in context, other research looked at where and when the ice may exist in the future. Because there’s no way to be absolutely certain how ice will develop in the future, WWF funded the creation of ice maps based on 30 different climate scenarios.
All of this information will also be important for making decisions about which areas may need special protection and which may be more flexible – for shaping the future of the Last Ice Area, and of the people and wildlife that call it home. We’ve shared our vision of a healthy future for this area with millions of Canadians, thanks to Coca-Cola. Now, we’re taking the next step, working with those who have the power to bring that vision to life.