Arctic Seas Portal Shares Marine Spaces to Wide Audiences

2021Today Snowchange with partners releases ”Arctic Seas”, a major international atlas and a portal that summarizes Indigenous and ecological information from the changing oceans of the North.

The Planet Has Only One Ocean But Many Seas.

Our work is connected with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Research 2020-2030 and also our partners, the Future Seas 2030 Initiative.

The portal, which will be expanding rapidly, contains

  • Photography by award-winning artists like Mika Honkalinna
  • Summaries and unique, authentic voices of Arctic Indigenous communities and their knowledge
  • Summaries of sea ice changes for each Arctic Sea area 1850-2020 based on science
  • External links to major regional Indigenous atlases, including the Inuit Trails, Sea Ice, Place Name and Community-Based Monitoring Atlases
  • Films, reports and data on each sea area in local languages (main language is English)
  • Hand-drawn maps of ecosystem changes from 20,000 years ago to present and on special Arctic islands, like Wrangel
  • Scalable, 3D and zoomable maps on each sea area (use control key)
  • Links to major marine science research that reviews and discusses how the northern seas are changing

Endemic, Cultural Interpretations of Climate and the Land on the Arctic Coasts

Outside descriptions of Arctic cultures, sea areas and the environment do not really convey how the Indigenous and local communities in this region self-conceptualize their home worlds and marine coasts. We may receive reminders and reflections of such cultural understandings by carefully and respectfully learning from the knowledge holders.

Snowchange has been working for 18 years with the Igloolik Oral History Project led for the better part of 35 years by John Macdonald, Leah Otak and Igloolik Elders.

To gain understanding, it is worth quoting Macdonald (2004) at length, when he says: “A defining characteristic of all traditional Inuit societies was their ability, not only to comprehend the intricacies of Arctic weather and environment from their own spiritual and philosophical perspectives, but also to deal with it in practical terms. Inuit clothing and dwellings, for instance, relying solely on materials at hand stand as unsurpassed adaptations to the Arctic climate. In addition, their cosmology, cooperative social skills, comprehension of the land and its resources, and specialize d hunting techniques, all combined to make a people competent and comfortable in a remarkably harsh environment.

We are positioning Indigenous and local knowledge from all Arctic sea areas alongside science to offer users an authentic view of a specific marine ecosystem and comments.

We will include reviews of present and past climate and environmental events to the regional sea sections and they will be updated regularly.

What do these changes mean, for the people of the Arctic coasts and beyond?

What are messages from the Arctic seas?

We wish to encourage visitors and users to contemplate what these changes under way mean and how they are affecting the northern coastal communities. The portal is far from exhaustive, and we welcome comments and suggestions.

We hope you will find these “dispatches from the cold seas” interesting!

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Is ecosystem restoration our last/best hope for a sustainable future?

Photo: Eero Murtomäki

Ecological restoration refers to a range of human activities designed to promote the recovery of ecosystems that have been so disturbed that their structure has been altered and their healthy functioning has been impaired. Researchers are increasingly warning that human actions have so depleted the natural world that the ability of Earth’s ecosystems to sustain future generations is far from guaranteed.

Snowchange representatives spoke to Mongabay news about the Landscape Rewilding Programme. The episode is available here.

The restoration of degraded ecosystems has become so urgent, in fact, that the decade of 2021 to 2030 has been declared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which the UN says is “a rallying call” to ramp up efforts to protect and revive ecosystems worldwide. “Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity,” according to the UN.

Snowchange’s Landscape Rewilding Programme, which aims to rewild Arctic and boreal habitats using both traditional Indigenous knowledge and science is reviewed at length. A more ground-level view of ecological restoration by telling us about the program’s efforts to rewild the Koitajoki River basin in Finland.

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New Science Article Outlines Steps for Reform in Alaska


Shoreline of Unalakleet. Brie Van Dam

Shoreline of Unalakleet. Brie Van Dam

Snowchange staff and Indigenous knowledge holders’ text as well as oral histories from over 20 years of work in Alaska have contributed to a new science article “Towards a shared understanding of Arctic climate change and urgency in Alaska“.

Recent years have seen record changes in the Arctic and circumpolar North. Rapid ice loss leading to an unprecedented lack of sea ice in Norton Sound and the greater Bering Sea for two subsequent winters caused cascading impacts on the marine ecosystem and beyond. In this article, we reflect on the underlying causes leading to the urgent situation today, and possible next steps.

We argue here that methodological reform is needed to understand the full magnitude of change currently underway in this region. By broadening our evidence base for understanding the present changes, we would be better positioned to detect changes and respond with what needs to be done in the current grave circumstances.

We dedicate this article to Stanton Katchatag’s memory.

Article is available here.

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What is shaping how we think about our planet’s future? Faced with the uncertainty of the pandemic and in the midst of the climate crisis, it has never been so unclear what lies ahead. How can we go forward positively when the future is so complex, uncertain and unknown? 

FORECAST is a new programme from award-winning art and environment organisation Invisible Dust that will consider answers to these urgent questions. Bringing together leading artists, scientists, influencers and change-makers and working with a range of international partners including Sydney Environment Institute and Ugandan Arts Trust, this timely programme presents newly commissioned artworks, a rich events programme, live performances, collections of writings and curated films, to champion new art and ideas from every continent that consider what our future will look like and what’s next for this planet.

The first contemporary art commission for Forecast is Forecasting: Interesting Worlds, a new collaborative digital artwork by acclaimed Chinese visual artist Fei Jun, which will premiere  online on 4 February 2021.

For this new digital work, Fei Jun has asked thirteen people from across the world (including Russia, China, Antarctica, Ghana, Mozambique, Finland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and the UK, with an additional participant representing our seas and oceans), to consider their own visions of the future. Using a special app created by the artist, each contributor has selected from over 180 icons of everyday and unusual objects to build an intricate 4D model ‘universe’ of what they imagine their future to be. These icons, their selection and the way they are placed and interact with others form a dialogue and a moving universe of their hopes and fears, forming a powerful final collaborative artwork which can be explored online.

Fei Jun said: “What is shaping our visions of the future? Forecasting: Interesting Worlds is my quest for the answer to this question with contributions from people from different continents, cultural backgrounds and disciplines. I believe the essence of the planet’s future lies in flexibly creative ways of working and thinking, with the spirit of activism and participation more important now than ever.”  

In addition to this new art commission, Forecast will present a five-day programme of online events from 37 March 2021, including panel discussions and in-depth talks from the likes of  campaigner Lily Cole, activist Daze Aghaji, National History Museum Curator Miranda Lowe, and climate scientist Hakima El Haite, exploring what is shaping how we think about the future. Artists Ahilapalapa Rands and Adam Chodzko will present new performance pieces responding to this topic, and artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl will premiere her new film Leonardo’s Submarine. The full events programme with participating speakers will be announced shortly.

Alice Sharp, Director and Curator at Invisible Dust, says: “We are delighted to announce this timely new cultural programme which will consider what is truly next for our planet. As recent events have made all too clear, we cannot plan for the future by assuming it will look like the past. This new programme will come to life through collaborations with leading thinkers, artists and changemakers as well as contributions from people from every continent, to encourage answers to vital questions and offer a global insight into their changing worlds.”

As part of the Forecast programme, Invisible Dust have also asked 40 international participants to provide their response to their central question of ‘what is shaping how you think about the planet’s future?’ Participants responding to the question include antarctic scientists, energy experts, indigenous environmentalists, glaciologists, CEOs, activists and leading artists.

Participants include novelist China Miéville, campaigner Lily Cole, mathematician Marcus du SautoyAlexandre Antonelli (director of Science at Kew), Judy Ling Wong (director of the Black Environment Network), environmentalist and indigenous peoples activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, ecologist Tero Mustonen, David Schlosberg (Sydney Environment Institute), Robert Mulvaney (Glaciologist, British Antarctic Survey), composer Jamie Perera and many more. The responses provide an insight into their hopes and fears, and how we can navigate the future of the planet at this pivotal juncture. Some have drawn inspiration from ancient and indigenous wisdom, while others consider the future lives of their children. Data and models, the role of creativity and the interconnectedness of life on this planet all feature prominently. A full list of their responses can be found online here.

Forecast also invites the general public to connect with the project and share their views. Submissions of no more than 50 words can be emailed to A selection of these views will be featured on social media and via the Forecast website.

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2021 Small Grants Call Opens


Snowchange and Land is Life declare the Indigenous-led grant making open for 2021. This year small grants applications will be received on a rolling basis. Maximum amount of support for a community is 5000 USD in the Arctic and boreal.

Snowchange, our member communities and partners wish to address the on-going impacts of multiple global events, including COVID to Indigenous and local communities of the North. Therefore, joining together with Land is Life, we are opening a new 2021 call of the small grants programme.

Any northern community, individual or group can apply for these fast grants. All in all in the first segment, a total of 50,000 USD will be available.

Half of the funds will be dispersed on discretion of emergencies and urgencies direct to Snowchange member communities, and the other half will be available through applications. Please email at contact at snow to receive further instructions.



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