Adapting to climate change: social-ecological resilience in a Canadian Western Arctic community

Adapting to climate change: social-ecological resilience in a Canadian Western Arctic community

Short and long term adaptive strategies for dealing with climate change

Human adaptation remains an insufficiently studied part of the subject of climate change. This paper examines the questions of adaptation and change in terms of social-ecological resilience using lessons from a place-specific case study of the Inuvialuit people in Canada's western arctic. The authors analysed the adaptive capacity of this community to deal with climate change and found that:

Short-term responses to changes in land-based activities, which are identified as coping mechanisms, are one component of this adaptive capacity. The second component is related to cultural and ecological adaptations of the Inuvialuit for life in a highly variable and uncertain environment; these represent long-term adaptive strategies. These two types of strategies are, in fact, on a continuum in space and time. This study suggests new ways in which theory and practice can be combined by showing how societies may adapt to climate change at multiple scales. Switching species and adjusting the "where, when, and how" of hunting are examples of shorter-term responses. On the other hand, adaptations such as flexibility in seasonal hunting patterns, traditional knowledge that allows the community to diversity hunting activities, networks for sharing food and other resources, and intercommunity trade are longer-term, culturally ingrained mechanisms.

Individuals, households, and the community as a whole also provide feedback on their responses to change. Newly developing co-management institutions create additional linkages for feedback across different levels, enhancing the capacity for learning and self-organization of the local inhabitants and making it possible for them to transmit community concerns to regional, national, and international levels. [authors]

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