Greenland’s shrinking ice hurts native tribe

The Inuit, who survived for centuries by hunting seals and whales, are watching their way of life disappear.

Nine photographers from the photo agency NOOR photographed climate stories from around the world for a 2009 report. Their goal: to document some of the causes and consequences, from deforestation to changing sea levels, as well as the people whose lives and jobs are part of the carbon culture.

It's hard to get any more remote than Uummannaq, a region in northwestern Greenland with some 2,800 Inuit natives, half of them living in this settlement.

Ice is a foundation of the culture here, but one that is weakening. In fact, Greenland's entire ice sheet has become less stable in recent years due to warmer temperatures and earlier spring thaws. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
In Uummannaq, boats are becoming more valuable than traditional dog sleds due to the unstable ice. That is also forcing adult males to give up hunting of polar bear and seals for fishing, which locally is seen as traditionally more of a task for women and chilldren.

"The Greenland ice sheet is no longer in equilibrium," the U.S. National Science Foundation says, "and it contributes annually to global sea-level rise, currently at a rate of about 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) per year. In 2007, the melt area exceeded the previously set record by 10 percent. The edges of Greenland are experiencing the greatest amount of change, with record amounts of pooled melt water appearing in recent years." Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
A boy rests on a rock in the village, dressed in fur-lined clothes made from polar bears and seals. That attire has helped Inuits survive extreme cold for centuries, but shrinking and less stable sea ice not only makes it harder for the Inuits to hunt, it also makes it harder for polar bears and seals to survive. Seals rely on sea ice to rest, hunt fish from and even to bear pups. The bears use the sea ice to hunt down seals. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
Hunters like Ole Jorgen Hammeken increasingly feed their dogs halibut since there's less meat from polar bears, whales, walruses or seals. "Once one piece of the hunter's life disappears," says photographer Stanley Greene, "then it all starts to melt away, just like the ice that is going away, and soon the hunters of Uummannaq may disappear as well. Without good ice they cannot survive, and without ice they are no longer 'Kings of the Ice,' and then they are nothing at all." Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
Two fishing boats are surrounded by weak ice off Ilulissat, Greenland. The town is near Uummannaq and home to Sermeq Kujalleq, northwestern Greenland's biggest glacier. Scientists recently found that the glacier is being eroded by pulses of warmer ocean water.

While gaps in climate science exist, leading some to question the degree of mankind’s impact as well as whether anything should be done, most governments as well as the science academies of the U.S. and other industrial nations agree that mankind is a significant factor and that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
Inuits make up the majority of Greenland's population, which totals just 55,000 people on an island the size of Texas. Greenland's Inuits share ties with Inuits in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
The signs of a changed Uummannaq include this field of junk, much of it lost cargo from container ships that has been washed up by currents. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
Ole Jorgen Hammeken studied law before following his Inuit calling to become a hunter. In 2007, after a postal sled route to Ilulissat could no longer be used due to unstable ice, he opened a route farther inland. He has also appeared in documentaries and even as the lead actor in a French-Greenlandic film, "On Thin Ice", about his culture.

Share your thoughts about these slideshows and climate change. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
Inuit make use of most of the resources around them, including small animals like arctic foxes, which are hunted to a limited extent for their fur. Their population numbers are stable, and the species is not considered endangered or threatened. Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR
A hunter walks through an abandoned settlement in the Uummannaq area. Some hope the retreating sea ice around Greenland will uncover oil and mineral wealth for residents here. Indeed, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates 31 billion barrels of oil and gas sit off Greenland's east coast, and 18 billion barrels beneath the Arctic waters between Greenland and Canada. How that would impact the local Inuit culture is a big unknown.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR