RecensionsBook reviews

KRUPNIK, Igor, Claudio APORTA, Shari GEARHEARD, Gita J. LAIDLER and Lene Kielsen HOLM (eds), 2010 SIKU: Knowing Our Ice. Documenting Inuit Sea Ice Knowledge and Use, Dordrecht, Springer, 501 pages.[Record]

  • Anja Nicole Stuckenberger

…more information

  • Anja Nicole Stuckenberger
    Institute of Arctic Studies, John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA

For the wider public, images of the hockey stick graph, stranded polar bears, or an ice-free Northwest Passage in the Arctic have become emblematic of global warming. Yet emblems like these seem to fail to communicate the urgency, enormity, and immediacy of the climate situation to large parts of the wider public, if measured by actual political action and changes in lifestyle. One of the reasons may be that these kinds of images are simply too abstract and remote to challenge people to connect climate change to their own particular lives, livelihoods, and experiences. While providing more concrete images of the impacts of climate change on everyday life may be a minor objective for the increasingly intensive collaboration between scientists and Arctic communities, it is an important one to keep in mind when reading SIKU: Knowing Our Ice. Documenting Inuit Sea Ice Knowledge and Use. This collection of case studies evolved from collaborative projects between researchers and Indigenous communities to gain new data, insights, and approaches to climate change observation, monitoring, and adaptation that would provide both scientific and local communities with new data, useful technologies, and experiences and models of collaboration. By nature, such a localising approach to science also communicates strong and accessible images of climate change concretely affecting the actual lives of people. For all of these reasons, this book is an important resource not only for researchers and anthropologists but also for educators, policy-makers, and people actively involved in climate change advocacy. The history of SIKU is interconnected with the International Polar Year (IPY 2007-2008). The research programs and projects under the auspices of the IPY produced and made accessible large amounts of new descriptive data and new insights into the causes and processes of climate change. More than that, the pressing situation of anthropogenic climate change also provided an opportune moment to include the social sciences and humanities in the research vision of the IPY; their task was to deal with what is often termed the human dimensions of Arctic climate change. The IPY project “Sea Ice Knowledge and Use: Assessing Arctic Environmental and Social Change” International Polar Year project (2006-2009) was set up to follow the model of the Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project (Freeman 1976) in its descriptive and mainly ecological system approach to Arctic socio-economic life. Organised as a “coordinated international study of local knowledge and use of sea ice in several indigenous communities across the Arctic” (p. 7), the resulting summary publication covers a multitude of perspectives on the indelible relationship between humans and their natural environment spanning a region from Chukotka to Greenland. The essays of this volume have been loosely organised into four subsections: 1) Recording the Knowledge: Inuit Observations of Ice, Climate and Change; 2) Using the Ice: Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Technologies; 3) Learning, Knowing, and Preserving the Knowledge; and 4) SIKU and Siku: Opening New Perspectives. The individual case studies explore how climate change reaches by way of the sea ice into the particular daily lives of people and communities. Most of the resulting findings already have been published elsewhere: logbooks of ice and weather conditions; remote sensing and other scientific data; an elaborate cybercartographic atlas; maps and navigational information and techniques on ice use and traveling; video and photo documentation; dictionaries of local sea ice terms and place names in indigenous languages; and narratives and oral histories that evolved from SIKU activities. Nonetheless, by publishing them again in this summary volume, the editors have created a space for both comparative and complementary reading that further unfolds the complexities of situations due to …