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SlowFish 2019 Featured Lauri From Snowchange and a Premiere for Koitajoki Film

Lauri Hämäläinen from Joensuu

Lauri Hämäläinen from Joensuu

Snowchange fisherman Lauri Hämäläinen travelled last weekend to the SlowFish 2019 event in Genoa, Italy. He premiered the “Koitajoki” river seining film and met with other small-scale fishermen. 

Lauri reports:

“Chiara Meta and her family hosted me. They were very hospitable and kind. Some of the fishing lectures in the event were hard to follow in French, Italian, Russian and Arabic with only limited translation but nevertheless the interconnected ocean its pressures emerged clearly as a unifying factor.”

Seining on Puruvesi, March 2019.

Seining on Puruvesi, March 2019.

Lauri made friends with Nibani Houssine from Morocco, with whom they shared the need of listening to small-scale fishermen and hearing us out. Lauri participated in an international panel highlighting the impact of climate change on the ice-based fisheries in the boreal:

“We are mostly conducting winter seining on the lake Puruvesi and summer fishery with traps, nets and seining in Selkie village. In recent years winters have become very warm and ice conditions worse. This is causing many changes in northern lakes and fish, and also means that the safety of the fishermen is at risk when ice conditions are bad or unstable. Snowchange is working with boreal and Arctic communities to address climate change. This includes large-scale restoration work for more carbon sinks and habitats.”

Genoa and SlowFish 2019

Genoa and SlowFish 2019

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Chukchi Lady Who Fought Climate Change Passes Away in Siberia

Anna Kaurgina

Anna Kaurgina

Anna Aleksandrovna Kaurgina, a Chukchi Elder from the village of Kolymskaya, Sakha-Yakutia, Russia, has passed away. Between 2004 and 2019 she was a leader in a fight against climate change and for revitalisation of the Chukchi nomadic lifestyle and traditions. Kaurgina conveyed the gendered Indigenous knowledge of the tundra and the Earth to generations of Chukchi as well as scientists and allies. Snowchange joins in mourning of a loss of immense proportions.

Anna Aleksandrovna Kaurgina was born to a Chukchi nomadic reindeer herding family in the tundra in Lower Kolyma area, Sakha-Yakutia, Russia in 1943. She did not know her parents too well, but was raised by her aunt and her family. Her uncle Yakul was a famous spiritual person in the region.

After a lifetime of reindeer herding Kaurgina retired officially from the nomadic lifein 1990s. She continued to visit the tundra all the time even after the retirement. She was widowed in 1997. However the over 20 grandchildren she had by 2010s brought immense pride and joy into her life as well as her own daughters and sons. The eldest son, Pyotr, rose to international arenas in 2000s to convey messages of a changing Chukchi homeland.

Chukchi nomads of the Kolyma area, 2010.

Chukchi nomads of the Kolyma area, 2010.

Anna Aleksandrovna Kaurgina mastered the Chukchi traditions and Indigenous knowledge, especially women’s knowledge. She was fully immersed in the local dialect of the Chukchi spoken in Yakutia, and as well was one of the few people who conveyed, using oral histories, the Chukchi traditional calendar and the starlore stories. She said often that: “It is more important to learn Chukchi language first and only then the traditions.

Between 2004 and 2019 Kaurgina worked with Snowchange and the communities of Nennen and Turvaurgin to assess and respond to a new phenomenon that had not been seen before in the Chukchi homelands – rapidly proceeding climate change and permafrost melt.

Anna with language specialists (left), Tero Mustonen and Chris Madine from Snowchange (back), summer 2012.

Anna with language specialists (left), Tero Mustonen and Chris Madine from Snowchange (back), summer 2012.

Adamant in her understanding that the Chukchi and her family would come through these changes as so many others in history, she proceeded to share knowledge, observations and wisdom through the years. These materials were then conveyed to the Arctic Council, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Russian and Arctic governments, and science forums.

As a basis of this work she conveyed in 2006: “We feed the land (give offerings) so that it would take care of us. We salute the south, north, east and west. We also throw the offerings to the sky too so that it would carry us and our children.

One of the methods to combat climate impacts and reform nomadic lifestyles in an orderly fashion that mrs. Kaurgina initiated was the solar panel training for women in Kolyma region and the further establishment of nomadic schools as a vehicle for maintaining presence and life on the land and reform of the reindeer life. She wanted especially young women to re-engage with and return to the life in the tundra.

Anna’s cosmology was built on the understanding of a cyclic universe. Now it has become her time to travel on. Snowchange recognizes her lifework, knowledge and vision and we will maintain the directions she gave the Chukchi to survive this century: “Nature has soul. Body rests when you are in nature. It is wonderful to walk on your own land. When we visit other peoples lands we always offer our greetings to these lands so that nature would receive us well, that it would not be a blizzard or other troubles.

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Major Report Documents Remote Sensing Needs of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Mountains of Northern Sweden

Mountains of Northern Sweden

Snowchange as a part of the EU project “Kepler” has been working with Indigenous and local communities in Northern Sweden, Finnish Sámi areas, NW Russia and Coastal Norway to combine Indigenous and local community voices with scientists to assess and explore user needs and priorities for remote sensing and monitoring work.

Russian herders preparing for the Kepler field visits, March 2019.

Russian herders preparing for the Kepler field visits, March 2019.

A full work report is available here.

The Kepler work can be summarized in following six recommendations:

  1. The proliferation of cellular services, on par with the so-called snow machine revolution of the 1960s in the region, has improved and expanded the availability of personal access and communications possibilities in the European North. However, the mission has been only partly accomplished. As demonstrated by listening to peripheral voices from the search and rescue services of Finland regarding emergencies in the national parks as well as the wilderness villages of Kola Peninsula communications access is not available or remains very low in these regions. Deaths have followed when the services have not delivered on location or temporal scales. The infrastructure to establish such services in the wilderness remains also a challenge as these
    Coastal fjords are a Sámi socio-ecological system.

    Coastal fjords are a Sámi socio-ecological system.

    areas are the least populated in the region and incentive to provide services remains low. This is combined with system-wide climate impacts including melt events of the palsamires in Sámi home area, changes in avalanche frequency and numbers, heat spells of 30 C and more in the summer time, droughts and other major regional events.

  2. Satellite services and user access have been partly connected with the proliferation of cellular services associated with GPS-enabled smartphones becoming available to “ordinary people” as well as authorities and specialists. Yet, maintaining traditional knowledge is essential on the local scales.This has included the “Russian GPS”, or GloNASS with services located in the Russian Federation, CIS countries and Brazil. Our research has completed several pilot scouting missions as a part of the project. First, the use of satellite service -based navigation tools as a part of an ice fishery on a boreal lake and its relationship with traditional knowledge was explored.GPS and associated sonar tools provided improvements in navigational safety and fish location information especially in rough conditions of
    Jevgeni documents the situation in NW Russia during a workshop in Inari.

    Jevgeni documents the situation in NW Russia during a workshop in Inari.

    blizzards, darkness and mist. Traditional harvest sites could be marked with ease on the devices. Challenges included customary ownership of these sites, data protection including of the digital maps of the sites, and too much of a reliance to the technologies in below -30 C contexts where batteries may have low life and satellite services are not available. Second, we spoke with the Sámi traditional knowledge holders in NW Russia on the questions of traditional weather predictionand uses of cell and satellite services. Whilst the satellite services and forecasting are improving, the weather forecasting data comes in such large blocks that the Sámi felt the regional variation is not taken into account. Therefore “reading nature” and her signs, especially in tundra and high Arctic conditions, is required to maintain skills and ways of navigation using traditional knowledge. The Sámi felt that people should only partly trust the satellite and cell services and maintain a healthy scepticism. This includes, for example, the deep and historical connection to place names and seasonal life cycles the Sámi have across the region. Third, the uses of RenGIS and other satellite-based tools have provided a more complete view of Swedish Sámi land use and needs, but this has been slow to translate into changes in practice and governanceof multiple other competing land uses. Fourthly the use of satellite and radio services on the coastal Sámi fishery is daily. Traditional navigational knowledge of the coast is reflected for example in Sámi language maritime place names and land mark system. According to a practitioner survey the use of a satellite radio and improved emergency tools are needed in the coastal small-scale fisheries.

  3. A preliminary view of the satellite receiving stations in Sodankylä, Finland and in Kiiruna, Sweden show they are providing services to global clients, but concerns have been raised regarding the geopolitical interests and intentions of some of the nations, especially China. Additionally in recent months Russia has aggressively disrupted and jammed GPS services as a part of the global international tensions.China is constructing a “Polar Silk Road” initiative to explore the uses of the Northern Sea Route, and investigating data services and other mechanisms to enter into the Arctic as a major player this century. Chinese delegations have visited satellite receiving stations and are already working with Sweden to secure said services. Some stakeholders in Sweden question the validity and aims of the Chinese data streams and services and whether they constitute threats or challenges to the hosting countries. Whilst the Arctic hosts these receiving stations the satellite services and remote sensing capabilities are not necessarily available or affordable to the communities next to these stations. International facilitation is needed to avoid dangers associated with the GPS jamming events, given the great reliance of, for example, aviation routes on these services in Kirkenes, Ivalo and other close-by airports.
  4. Uses of remote sensing services such as satellite data analysis provide a more up to date situational view locally of natural resources uses in the northern taiga or boreal.They have provided mechanisms to analyse the cumulative ecological impacts of forestry, mining, infrastructure and so on in new ways, if the openness of the data is guaranteed. This is of high value to those communities who may have equity issues or even a land and water conflict with outside parties. Equally so the uses of publicly available remote sensing services can provide important data on ice and snow cover to improve safety and trip planning, at least in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The issue was highlighted also by the coastal Sámi fishermen in Norway. This highlights the potential usefulness of easy-to-use end products that synthesize Arctic research and data into user-friendly interfaces with open access. Also, the future application of drones could be one method used to increase the coverage, scale and ecosystem-based assessment of change.
  5. Following the recent OECD discoveries the Sámi and other minorities in the European North and NW Russia should be positioned as special access stakeholders for remote sensing services. This may mean culturally appropriate interfaces in Sámi languages, tailored services for reindeer herding communities and subsidies for example to allow satellite phones to be purchased for those remote communities who are otherwise removed from the technical mainstream.
  6. We should recognize the global trend that favours the speedy development of and further reliance on technologies this century. Traditional knowledge, life skills and wilderness economies lose out in this particular process if steps are not taken to provide feasible alternatives.These steps might include protected territories and contexts and mechanisms that foster the use and revitalisation of traditional land uses, languages, place names, economies and ways of life as determined by the communities, families and individuals themselves. The European North still contains semi-nomadic and seasonal lifeways unique in the world as well as Indigenous societies which have maintained a very close relationship with nature. The dominant narrative of Arctic monitoring and research rests on remote sensing and its applicability. To a certain extent we should perhaps resist this dominant narrative and challenge its implications for the local cultures and other navigational, weather and subsistence systems that are more endemic and suitable in the local contexts. Technology is always and only a tool, not a substance. We should also be aware of the context of increased technological solutions that are embedded in geopolitical ambitions in the Arctic as a transport and natural resources periphery, as opposed to a thriving homeland and home of the Indigenous peoples.kepler_logo_portrait
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Finnair and Snowchange Partner for Landscape Rewilding in Finland

Linnunsuo at -32. Photo: Antoine Scherer

Linnunsuo at -32. Photo: Antoine Scherer

Finnair has announced today it joins the Landscape Rewilding Programme coordinated by Snowchange for restoration of marshmires, wetlands and habitats relevant for traditional and Indigenous communities in Finland.

Snowchange Cooperative is a Finnish non-profit science and nature conservation organisation, with projects in Siberia, Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Finland. For the past 20 years, Snowchange has been a pioneer in combatting climate change through research, restoration and rewilding. Through Finnair’s Push for Change service, customers can support the cooperative’s Landscape Rewilding Programme, where Finnish marshmires, bogs and wetlands are restored. The wetlands and marshmires of the boreal forests are carbon sinks comparable to the rainforests of Amazon, and key for preserving northern biodiversity.

Marshmires are key carbon sinks in the boreal zone and also in global context”, says Tero Mustonen from Snowchange Cooperative. ”By restoring marshmires and wetlands we can create new carbon sinks and restore and preserve habitats for species that are affected by climate change impacts, especially wader birds. Restored wetlands are also important for the local communities. Landscape Rewilding is the largest restoration project on private lands under way in Finland, and we are excited about Finnair’s contribution to this project.

With Finnair’s Push for change service, including both CO2 offsetting and biofuel purchasing, air travelers can offset the CO2 emissions of their flight by supporting CO2 reduction projects, or decrease the CO2 emissions of their flights by purchasing biofuel.

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Fisherman Risto Hara from Pirkkala, Finland Knew His Waters

Risto Hara, 2002.

Risto Hara, 2002.

Professional fisherman, knowledge holder Risto Hara was born in 1961. He was born into a family of nine siblings. He began working as a professional fisherman in 1993, but had been learning the trade from his father, with whom he had been fishing all his life. Snowchange worked with Risto for the most part between 2000 and 2004 to collect observations, traditional knowledge and oral histories of climate change from Pirkanmaa region in Finland. We learned of Risto’s passing some time ago, and wish to honour his life work here.

Risto was very observant of the changes on his lake and its fish. For example he had been surveying the return of asp (Leuciscus aspius) after a restoration process which became so successful that the nets were full of asp occasionally. A fish that Risto treasured was the pikeperch: ”I appreciate the meat of pikeperch. The biggest one I have gotten was about 10,2 kgs.”

Oral history work with Risto focused on climate and weather changes that had already in early 2000s started to influence the ice cover, density and quality. He recalled that 2002 was a strange winter which came very early. However he was wondering how the ”sun has become very strange, it is so hot. It burns through the ice very fast. From 1990s the situation has worsened.” Risto was famous for being able to predict weather based on the behaviour of fish. According to him the “fish knew the weather in advance”. He followed pikeperch and blue bream (ballerus ballerus) which would dive deep before storms. His father taught him how to read the weather.

Summer seining in Pirkanmaa, 1900s.

Summer seining in Pirkanmaa, 1900s.

Hara also maintained traditional fishing practices such as the spring dip netting for European smelt (Osmerus eperlanus). Risto had a craving for the fish every spring and felt that he has to continue doing it because he has been doing it since he was a little boy.

Fishing was Risto’s life. Snowchange remembers our partner and keeper of fishing knowledge and we will make sure Risto’s oral histories, traditional knowledge and observations will play a role in support of professional fishing in the future in Finland.

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