By Chris Mooney
29 April 2017

(The Washington Post) – The northernmost village in Greenland sits just shy of 78 degrees north latitude — deep in the Arctic — yet during the summer, meltwater is everywhere. It flows in small rivulets and larger streams, past multicolored houses built against a sloping hill and down to the Inglefield Bredning, as it is called in Danish — a broad body of water at the confluence of several fjords. […]

But the age-old Inugguit lifestyle is changing fast as the climate warms, disrupting long-held patterns and possibilities and forcing economic challenges as a traditional hunting culture weighs new industries such as fishing and even tourism. […]

And now, when it comes to climate, it’s not just the changing patterns of ice in the Inglefield Bredning. It’s a host of other changes — from the arrival of mosquitoes to increasing landslide and flood dangers from the melting of the Qaanaaq ice cap, which sits on the bluff above the village. […]

Qaanaaq, the northernmost village in Greenland. As the climate changes, the hunting seasons have changed, threatening the local population’s ability to survive. Photo: Whitney Shefte / The Washington Post

The encroaching problems include mercury polluting the marine life that is their food staple.

Rune Dietz, an environmental scientist and marine mammal expert from Aarhus University in Denmark, was in Qaanaaq last summer to research this latest crisis for the village. High levels of mercury, which trace back to the burning of coal across the world, accumulate in the flesh of narwhals — exposing villagers to the dangerous neuro­toxin.

“The mercury loads here are the highest in any part of the Arctic,” Dietz said. “We’ve seen it in the polar bears here and in Lancaster Sound. We’ve seen it in the ringed seals. And if you look at the population, then the mercury loads here are by far higher than any other Inuit or the Indian tribes, or other indigenous or nonindigenous populations.” [more]

In Greenland’s northernmost village, a melting Arctic threatens the age-old hunt



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