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Well-being and environmental change in the arctic: a synthesis of selected research from Canada’s International Polar Year program

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  • Brenda Parlee

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  • Chris Furgal

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Abstract

The social and cultural dimensions of arctic environmental change were explored through Canada’s International Polar Year (IPY) research program. Drawing on concepts of vulnerability, resilience and human security, we discuss preliminary results of 15 IPY research projects (of 52) which dealt with the effects and responses of northern communities to issues of ecological variability, natural resource development and climate change. This paper attempts to determine whether the preliminary results of these projects have contributed to the IPY program goal of building knowledge about well-being in the arctic. The projects were diverse in focus and approach but together offer a valuable pan-northern perspective on many themes including land and resource use, food security, poverty and best practices of northern engagement. Case study research using self-reported measures suggests individual views of their own well-being differ from regional and territorial standardized statistics on quality of life. A large body of work was developed around changes in land and resource use. A decline in land and resource use in some areas and consequent concerns for food security, are directly linked to the effects of climate change, particularly in coastal areas where melting sea ice, erratic weather events and changes in the stability of landscapes (e.g., erosion, slumping) are leading to increased risks for land users. Natural resource development, while creating some new economic opportunities, may be compounding rather than offsetting such stresses of environmental change for vulnerable populations. While the IPY program has contributed to our understanding of some aspects of well-being in the arctic, many other issues of social, economic, cultural and political significance, including those unrelated to environmental change, remain poorly understood. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Brenda Parlee & Chris Furgal, 2012. "Well-being and environmental change in the arctic: a synthesis of selected research from Canada’s International Polar Year program," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 13-34, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:1:p:13-34
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0588-0
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ananta Kumar Giri, 2000. "Rethinking human well-being: a dialogue with Amartya Sen," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(7), pages 1003-1018.
    2. Colin West, 2011. "The survey of living conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA): A comparative sustainable livelihoods assessment," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 217-235, February.
    3. Thomas Andersen & Birger Poppel, 2002. "Living Conditions in the Arctic," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 191-216, June.
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