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Adapting to climate change: socio-ecological resilience in a Canadian western Arctic community

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. The Inuvialuit people of the small community of Sachs Harbour in Canada's western Arctic have been tracking climate change throughout the 1990s. We analyse the adaptive capacity of this community to deal with climate change. 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 diversify 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-organisation of local inhabitants and making it possible for them to transmit community concerns to regional, national and international levels. http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss2/art18

Berkes, F. and D. Jolly, 2001: Adapting to climate change: socio-ecological resilience in a Canadian western Arctic community. Conservation Ecology, 5, 18.

Reacting to climate events

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