'Solastalgia': Arctic inhabitants overwhelmed by new form of climate grief

(The Guardian, 15 Oct 2020) Solastalgia means a feeling of homesickness without ever leaving home - and for Inuit in Canada’s north it describes the psychological impact of the climate crisis.

With snow just beginning to dust the hills surrounding the city of Iqaluit, the hunters scramble off in boats. They’re hunting Canada geese, as they have always done, only now using rifles and motorboats instead of the spears and kayaks of their ancestors.

Across Baffin Island, Inuit are harvesting before autumn begins to transition into winter. Later in the year, when the snows arrive in force and the fjords and harbours become thick with ice, the boats will be replaced by snowmobiles and the area will once again teem with human life.

But it is in the transitory periods between the seasons, known locally as the “shoulder” seasons, that the echoes of motors and the sounds of Inuktitut are least pronounced across this vast Arctic island. And these shoulder seasons are becoming increasingly unpredictable – something that concerns Neil Kigutaq.

The shoulder seasons have always been a problem: there isn’t enough ice to safely use a snowmobile yet too much ice in the water for boating. These seasons are worsening, however, and becoming more unpredictable as the climate warms. It can be difficult now to determine the safest route – and that has a worrying, if predictable, psychological result.

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The Guardian, 15 Oct 2020: 'Solastalgia': Arctic inhabitants overwhelmed by new form of climate grief