I have a short-term contract with the Arctic Council/Indigenous Peoples Secretariat. The big issue confronting these folks, and the eight member states around the North Pole, is climate change. Some of the stories and situations facing Indigenous peoples came out during a September meeting in Copenhagen. an entire lake in the Northwest Territories in Canada disappeared — not in years or months — in a single day.  The family who had lived on, depended upon, made their lives working on the lake were in traumatic shock. They probably still are. The perma frost melted. The water, usually contained above ground by the perma frost, seeped into the soil. Gone. Just like that.

New asphalt roads melting. Buildings slipping into the perma frost. Bugs and parasites that had never been seen before by the elders suddenly appear. Water sources contaminated. Herds changing their migratory patterns. Birds no longer showing up or showing up earlier or later than expected. Life turned upside down. The potential cost in human terms is incalculable. The cost of adapting to the changing environment huge – and rising.

I once thought the North was so clean and untouched and impervious to pollution and climate change.