Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alaskan Natives Start Environmental Website

Alaskan fish caught with internal discolorations. Image via:

Much is made of the desolation and isolation of living in northern Alaska; and, to a certain extent life in Alaska can be a very solitary existence. However, living in Alaska gives a unique point of view into global warming.

Since Alaska is such a rural state, it can sometimes be hard for information to be shared. Unnerving environmental changes have been happening recently; so, rural Alaskans have taken matters into their own hands and created a website to bring these changes to each others' and the world’s attention. They named their website “”. The world “nunat” means “lands” in the Yup’ik language.

The website is very simply designed and laid out; but, the information is very action oriented. Users of this website have space to upload images; a calendar for organizing meetings; information on contaminant, climate change, resource development, and subsistence observation; an elders’ section that allows the elders to comment on changes they have seen over the years; and several discussion boards.

The site’s database is a year old. It was designed to give rural Alaskans a way to share information and document the changes around them, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors, said its creator, Brad Garness.

“People who live a subsistence hunting and fishing lifestyle generally have a unique view regarding climate change and why animals behave the way they do,” Garness said.

Garness is acting executive director of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, which owns the site.

Already there have been several noticeable odd occurrences that have been posted on the site.

Treehugger reports:
One thing noticed is "a polar bear lying on the beach after swimming to shore in Barrow last fall - something scientists say is becoming more common because of receding sea ice."

"There are trees and lawns in Nome now. I never thought I'd see trees growing on the tundra. Beavers are overrunning the area now that there is food for them. They are even in Barrow, north of the Arctic Circle," said Patricia Cochran, the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

Nome, which lies on the Bering Sea, was once too cold for trees to grow. Now, as a consequence of the positive feedback loop that has resulted in the region's gradual warming and loss of ice, it is not uncommon to see an influx of new plant and animal species every year.

One of the most popular sections includes information of deformed fish catches and sightings. Villagers are becoming concerned because deformed fish catches are happening more and more often. They want to know if any other villages are having similar experiences.

The data posted is reasonably uniform as there are “official” forms to be filled out to help ensure accuracy of reporting.

While most of us are aware of the news-worthy loss of polar bears and penquins; most of us are unaware of the more subtle signs such as flowers blooming earlier every year or animals failing to adapt to the changing environment.

The website is incredibly interesting and well worth a visit. As an added bonus, all the news on there is free from the taint of the media. So, for the true view on global warming, visit

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