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IPY & People: Summary

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IPY & People: Summary

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People have lived in the Arctic for many millennia, developing skills, strategies, and community knowledge to survive polar conditions.  They succeeded by learning to use local foods from land and ocean, by learning to move safely across land, ice, and ocean, by circum-Arctic trade, and by perpetuating their knowledge through language and culture.  In recent centuries resource exploitation and political activities imposed from outside the polar regions have changed the livelihoods and well-being of polar residents in good and bad ways.  Climate change and renewed exploitation present urgent challenges to Arctic people.

Health
Arctic people face many of the same health issues as people living elsewhere: infectious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS; chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer; and behaviour problems such as injury or substance abuse.  However, Arctic indigenous people face substantial additional challenges.  Indigenous residents may have higher risk factors or susceptibilities for global diseases.  Global contaminants such as mercury or persistent organic pollutants accumulate in the Arctic and in Arctic biota, so much so that Arctic women often face an unenviable choice between traditional foods with high risk factors for offspring and foods imported from foreign sources.  Arctic residents who depend on traditional foods also face increased risk as infectious diseases such as trichinellosis expand in polar food sources.  Climate change accelerates and exacerbates these trends and invasions.  These unique factors contribute to health challenges and deficiencies for many Arctic residents.

Community Well-Being
In addition to health, education, and material well-being, Arctic communities adapt and survive based on close interactions with the natural world and shared senses of an ability to guide their own destinies and of belonging to viable local cultures.  Humans in the Arctic have always relied on a broad range of natural resources and many communities retain strong hunting and gathering traditions.  Other Arctic communities manage millions of reindeer over millions of square kilometres.  These connections to natural resources, ancient in origin yet essential for food, income and cultural identity, represent sustainable ecosystem management based on generations of accumulated experience.  A hunter