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Inupiat Against Polar Bear Listing

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, global warming, climate change, polar bear, Inupiat, threatened,

Polar bear 2Who but climate-change denialists and animal haters could oppose the United States’ decision to list polar bears as threatened? The Inupiat people of northern Alaska who live closest to the bears, Cameron Smith reports in Cultural Survival Quarterly.

“The Inupiat argue that listing the polar bear as threatened won’t save it,” Smith writes, noting that the bear is a cornerstone of the Inupiat’s traditional hunting culture and they have centuries of collective knowledge about the animal. Their opposition is based on three key points: they don’t think bear numbers are actually declining; they kill only about 20 bears a year, not enough to threaten the species; and “Listing the polar bear does not address the problem!” as North Slope Borough Mayor Edward S. Itta told U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials at a public meeting in Barrow. Shrinking sea ice caused by carbon dioxide emissions is the culprit, not Inupiat hunters.

“The Inupiat solution,” Smith writes, “was for Washington to address climate change head-on by legislating global warming preventatives, and leave the polar bears to the native peoples of the Arctic.”

Image by Dave Olsen, licensed under Wikimedia Commons.