Field Note: Barren-Ground Caribou
Published: January 4, 2020
By Mark Seth Lender
Inuit hunters Jason and Paul search for caribou. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender shares reflections on the warming Arctic, oil and gas development there, and the impacts on caribou and the Inuit people.
Every Inuit I have ever asked about climate talked only about wind. It’s changed, they say. A change in the wind means a change in sea ice. It makes things unpredictable. If the sea ice breaks up when you’re on it, it is your death.
The unpredictable weathers are doing the caribou no good. All change is bad for them.
But most of the problem right now is not the chaos in the climate but direct human disturbance, exploration for oil and mining, the roads that follow, the extraction itself and all these activities entail. In 2016 the government of Nunavut – over the objections of local Inuit hunters – decided to expand extractive enterprise into the midst of the Qamanirjuaq Herd calving area. As one of the objectors said, “Mining comes and mining goes. The Caribou have been here thousands of years.”
The great Canadian caribou herds are in precipitous decline. The George River Caribou, once 800,000 strong, has fallen to perhaps 8500 and yet the indigenous governments of the affected provinces, notably Labrador, refuse to have them listed as “Endangered.” As of this writing (Fall 2019) the Porcupine Herd is holding its own in large part because calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are protected. In a matter of weeks that protection will cease, and the oilmen will begin their dirty work.
Listen to Mark Seth Lender read his Barren-Ground Caribou essay
Mark’s fieldwork and travel are arranged by Destination: Wildlife.
Back to Mark Seth Lender Field Notes
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
NewsletterLiving on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Creating positive outcomes for future generations.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth