Arctic Team Studies Global Warming, Inuit Culture Explorers are embarking on a 1,200-mile journey across Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Traveling by dog sled, the expedition will spend time in local villages meeting and discussing the effects of global warming on Inuit cultures.
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Arctic Team Studies Global Warming, Inuit Culture

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Arctic Team Studies Global Warming, Inuit Culture

Arctic Team Studies Global Warming, Inuit Culture

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This week, Will Steger left on a journey to see for himself the impact that global warming is having on Inuit culture. He left on a four-month dogsled expedition across Baffin Island, a large island in the northernmost regions ridges of Canada near the Arctic Circle. His team includes three Inuit hunters and a dog-musher.

Mr. Steger, could you describe to us where you are right now?

Mr. WILL STEGER (Team Leader, Global Warming 101 Expedition): We're at Iqaluit, which is the capital of Nunavut on Baffin Island. It's a town of about 6,000 people.

SIMON: And did you see anything around you that suggest signs of global warming to your mind?

Mr. STEGER: The temperature outside today is 28 degrees above zero, whereas normally it's 30 or 40 below zero. And we've had unseasonably warm weather here since the week that we've been here. So it's just really been a very strange winter up here, and it's been warm pretty much all winter, according to the local people up here.

SIMON: What's the terrain like there?

Mr. STEGER: We're looking out towards the sea ice end, and then land out in the distance. It's really quite beautiful on a clear day here. It's very windy at times, but no trees, of course; the nearest tree from here is about 1,000 miles away, a very typical Arctic terrain.

SIMON: You're calling this expedition Global Warming 101. Why is that?

Mr. STEGER: You know, it is about documenting the changes of global warming. In particular, we want to put a cultural face on global warming. I think the majority of the people are really confused by the science, but if you can hear the human stories, the people that are really being touched in a dramatic way here by global warming, it really touches people in a moral, more ethical way.

SIMON: Do you have any idea what you expect to see along this four-month journey?

Mr. STEGER: Well, we're going to be traveling to four very traditional villages, and I know we'll get some great stories from the elders since they have a reference to their traditional knowledge of about 1,000 years of weather. So for them everything is changing. The wind direction is changing, the occurrence - the seasons are coming earlier, and then along the way there's a lot of open water. We heard areas that are never open are now, we heard this winter, are wide open. So it's going to be a pretty tough trip traveling, I think, but I think we'll still be able to make that 1,200 miles.

SIMON: So the Arctic is registering some of these effects before other areas of the planet?

Mr. STEGER: Baffin Island, where we're traveling on, is really ground zero of global warming. It's one of the fastest changing places on the Earth right now. And since there's a real solid traditional culture here, that culture is also changing. So that's a very good indicator of what's happening.

SIMON: How is the culture being affected?

Mr. STEGER: They rely on 80 percent of their food from hunting, and with the reduction of the hunting season because of the loss of ice, most of their hunting season is reduced now by about 40 to 50 percent. So they're just not able to obtain foods that they normally would get. They do have some stores where they can buy food, although it's not a real economy like we have. So it's really a hardship on people.

But it's a loss of a culture and a culture that's used to traveling by dogs, living in igloos. All this is just literally melting away.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Steger, good luck.

Mr. STEGER: Thank you for the interview.

SIMON: Will Steger is leading a four-month expedition through Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, called Global Warming 101. And you can find a link to his Web site on our Web site

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