Sunday, December 16, 2007

The big thaw - consequences for residents of the North Pole

I am fond of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. Due to the extensive ethnological research work on the hunting communities in the arctic by the famous previous Dutch curators Nico Tinbergen and Gert Nooter the museum has an impressive collection of the arctic region - amongst which interesting kayaks and umyaqs. In his standard work on Greenland kayaks Harvey Golden has also described some of the kayaks in Leiden.

The big Thaw is a now running temporary exposition in the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology- Leiden: Our climate is changing. The ice is melting. The cause and effect is a topic discussed in the news every day. How will the world be in 50 years? The Museum of Ethnology is not making any predictions but is looking at and listening to those who are directly involved. Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Lapland and Siberia. The residents of these polar areas speak at length in interviews conducted specially for this exhibition. They talk about their country and culture, the present and the past. The Netherlands will also be affected by the melting ice. That is why the exhibition is also about the Netherlands. What does the possible rise in sea level mean for us?

This morning I visited "The big Thaw" with Lieke. The timing was perfect: last week some new scientific reports about the increasing speed of melting ice on the North Pole, yesterday the climate conference in Bali closed with a surprising positive deal, today the first ice on the water in Holland and the weekend started with my own broken "arctic" kayak trip.

This short wide kayak is from East-Siberia, a very manoeuvrable hunting boat to navigate between floating ice, used in combination with a sledge

Fascinating is the ease in which the Inuit people seem to adapt new technology and combine it with their traditional lifestyle. Adaptation is in the genes of these people: their culture has survived dramatic changes, we can learn a lesson from them!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. It's great to see that attention is being brought to northern populations, giving the communities and individuals a voice in this multi-media age. It's important that these stories and realities be spread. I would love to see an exhibition like this in NYC or Washington D.C.

Hans Heupink said...

Hi Remy!

The US finally joined the Bali-agreement this weekend. It goes (far to) slowly, but times are changing. There is hope for NYC and Washington DC...

Btw: in respect to this (indeed great and very respectful) exposition: don't forget the Dutch have strong historic connections with the arctic people. The Dutch whale hunters were one of the first to confront the Inuit-people with foreign colonization. Not in every relation a period to be proud of. There are a lot of stories to be told, also about our own history...