For thousands of years, permafrost has been a constant in most of the Arctic. Communities and lifeways have literally been built on the assumption that it would endure in perpetuity. Now, in response to recent warming trends, permafrost degradation and its numerous societal and environmental impacts are becoming widespread. Coastal bluffs eroding into the sea, roads like washboards or washed away, fill collapsing around pilings supporting public infrastructure, archaeological sites and cultural heritage thawing and rotting, and ice cellars thawing and flooding, are only some of the effects becoming commonplace across the Circumpolar North.
This session will bring together interdisciplinary research focused on changing permafrost and its impacts on people and landscapes as well as human resilience and adaptation in Arctic coastal permafrost areas. We seek to develop synergy between researchers interested in these topics and expand PerCS-Net (Permafrost Coastal Systems Network), an international network of researchers dealing with permafrost systems in transition. We welcome papers covering various aspects of these issues, from identifying new types of social and environmental disruption to monitoring to attempts at adaption. Contributions from community members and holders of Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge and researchers successfully engaging directly with Indigenous communities are particularly welcomed.
About a month ago, Tracey Sinclaire and Beth Verge from Anchorage TV station KTUU came to Utqiagvik to do a number of weather/climate-related stories. One was on the effects of coastal erosion. I took them out toward Nuvuk/Point Barrow as far as seemed prudent for the vehicle I had, and got interviewed. The weather was quite challenging while they were here, but they hung in and got stories on the NOAA site, and the blue football field which is endangered by coastal erosion.
I’m taking part in a workshop on Health Security Risks from Microbial Threats in the Arctic. I’m looking for any experiences with such, particularly connected to archaeology. Also interested in any published references. Have some, trying to make a better list. Please DM or email me if you can help. I’ll be traveling Sunday & Monday.
As usual, things have been busy. One of the things I’ve been busy with was an online seminar for the Society of American Archaeology on “Climate Change and Cultural Resources.” Despite some connectivity issues, it went off well. SAA records these seminars, and you can watch them if you are a current member. You will need to be logged in to the SAA web site member section to access the archive. The climate change one is here.
Black Friday wouldn’t seem like the ideal day to release a report as important as this, but there it is. This report is Part 2, covering Risks, Impacts and Adaptation in the US. It is based on a massive amount of scientific study, as detailed in Part 1, which was released last year.
For those who don’t have time to read it, the short version is that things are going to get really bad soon in many parts of the US if we don’t turn this car around. Fires, floods, coastal erosion & flooding and declining property values along the coast, climate refugees, heat waves that kill people, infrastructure collapse, agricultural failures with decreasing food security and increasing food prices, and so on. And the knock-on effects of all that will impact places and industries that maybe aren’t feeling direct effects, so the economy will shrink. Not a pretty picture.
It won’t be just Arctic peoples’ cultural heritage and valuable scientific information that gets lost. It will be public infrastructure and homes and food sources and drinking water. The problems that we are seeing here in North Alaska now will most likely be coming to a place near you soon if enough isn’t done to change things. This really isn’t the sort of thing to be gambling on.
The way it is set up, you can download executive summaries of the whole thing and of each chapter, but not the whole report or whole chapters. They have to be read online. Not much thought given to folks who live in rural communities with low bandwidth and/or super expensive internet ($299/month for 5Mb/sec and a 100GB data cap anyone). If it could be downloaded, costs and the downloaded documents could be shared.
I’m back from over a month in the field, and just got the Committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR)-sponsored session set up for next spring’s SAA meetings. The session abstract is here.
We are looking for papers. If you are interested and have a paper you think might fit, contact me!
NB. The hard deadline is coming up fast (September 6, at 3PM ET) and you will need to be registered and with fees paid to be accepted. You don’t have to renew/establish your SAA membership right now, but will need to do that by the end of January 2019 to give the paper.
A group of us have been working on an article on climate change and the effects it is having on archaeological sites and the cultural heritage and environmental information they contain. It has finally been published in the journal Antiquity. It is open access, so you can read it here. Local sites, especially Walakpa, make an appearance.
I just learned that the session was accepted, so I am looking for participants. The organizers are being kind enough to give us a couple of extra days past tomorrow’s deadline, but this has a pretty short fuse. The abstract is linked here, but in short, I want to get a conversation started about this issue. In many ways, Alaska has more at risk, sooner, than most of the rest of the US or most of the rest of the world, but we seem to be responding more slowly than places like Scotland or Florida or California. I am hoping for papers that either highlight sites that are being or have been destroyed (you don’t need to have completed excavation & analysis), or showcase specific ways that communities, agencies and/or archaeologists have tried to deal with the issue. We should have time after the papers to actually start a discussion on ways to deal with this problem beyond simply noticing it exists.
Please send abstracts to me (email@example.com) and to Andy Tremayne (Andrew_Tremayne@nps.gov).
Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
Two more crew members are here, and we’ve been doing lots of sorting. Sorting field equipment, sorting some samples from last year, sorting food. We’ve got one or two more days of sorting and putting away samples, and then we can focus on packing field gear.
Kaare is shopping for the project in Anchorage, but he can’t make it up until after the 4th of July, which is probably about when the freight will get here, so we may be rushing around cooking after that.