Delaying Loss: Dilemmas of Cultural and Biological Diversity in the “Long Emergency” of Arctic Warming

Hannah H. Voorhees, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, and Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Fellow, SAR

Colloquium, SAR Boardroom

Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

Hannah H. VoorheesHannah H. Voorhees Photograph by Jason S. OrdazHannah H. Voorhees Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz

In 2008, polar bears became the first species listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act due to climate change projections. Anticipating endangerment, but unable to intervene directly in its ultimate cause—greenhouse gas emissions—federal wildlife biologists and their Alaska Native conservation partners faced a novel set of questions: What kind of local interventions might buy time for polar bears? And, given that ice loss now appears inevitable, what trade-offs should be made in exchange for the precarious gains that such interventions can offer? Drawing on ethnographic research in the Bering Straits Region, Voorhees shows how attempts to answer these questions are turning rural Alaska Native communities and their tradition of polar bear subsistence hunting into a front-line of climate change conservation. Communities are being asked to change the way they relate to and utilize bears, bringing cultural and biological “rights to exist” into a new framework of ethical decision-making.

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