'This is the loudest wake up call': National Geographic documentary 'The Last Ice' warns of the dire consequences of melting sea ice
National Geographic's latest documentary, The Last Ice, tells the harrowing story of how Inuit communities in Canada and Greenland have been affected by the melting sea ice in the Arctic.
Pikialasorsuaq is surrounded by a “last ice area” that is expected to remain after all other areas with significant summer ice have disappeared. Protecting this area is essential for the surrounding communities and the wildlife that depends on the sea ice.
"The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world," said Dr. Enric Sala, executive producer and explorer-in-residence of National Geographic, on a panel discussion following the October 7 premiere of the film, The Human Face of Global Warming and all of those activities that cause all of this carbon pollution are not in the Arctic but mostly in a world we are in or further south, but they suffer the consequences. "
"This is ... another example of how everything is connected, how everyone is connected and that the consequences will be global if you manipulate the nature or the climate in any part of the world."
These areas are also threatened by industrial opportunities from oil and gas deposits, the desire for faster shipping routes, and tourism from these melting ice areas.
It was a four year process to create The Last Ice, starting in 2015. Director Scott Ressler announced that it was originally intended to be a more scientific documentary about "traditional wildlife and sea ice," but the team quickly realized the story was a lot greater to tell with so many interconnected human stories.
Maatalii Okalik, President of the Inuit National Youth Council, speaks during a panel with Canadian indigenous leaders about climate change at the COP22 climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday November 16, 2016. (AP Photo / Mosa'ab Elshamy)
"More common than what you read in the newspaper"
One of the characters in the film is Maatalii Okalik, who is originally from Panniqtuuq, Nunavut and a well-known Inuit youth lawyer. Through its history, among other things, the documentary reveals a myriad of threats to human survival in these areas, including animal life, the maintenance and continuation of cultural traditions, and even the relatively unknown interconnection of people in Greenland and Canada.
"The struggles that people went through before us as they worked towards our having rights ... are the same struggles that we see today," Okalik said. "We still experience the same systemic racism that they experienced in their daily lives today."
“Families who have lived in these regions for many generations and who learn traditional practices from the knowledge keepers not only have to adapt to a changing climate, but also essentially have to move to a completely different area that affects this knowledge transfer and ability live safely in your home. "
Okalik revealed that in Nunavut alone, seven out of ten Inuit are food unsafe due to the high cost of living as food has to be shipped to the area by air.
"It is very important that we have access to hunting forage because it will be our main source of food in many cases and if we cannot it will only increase our ability to survive," she said.
During the panel discussion, Okalik shared a story about a woman she spoke to, whose husband, a hunter who fed not only his family but also many people in the community, died when he fell through the ice and she his funeral without had a chance to bury him.
"I think that's more common than what you read in the papers," she said. "There is very real human impact on Inuit as we are seeing a changing climate and we are very concerned about it."
Aleqatsiaq Peary looks out over sea ice near Qaanaaq, Greenland. (National Geographic)
"This is the loudest wake-up call"
As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe at the same time this documentary is released, Dr. Sala, the pandemic shows that "we have taken too much of what the planet has to offer".
"We pretend we have five planets," he said. "We realized that we weren't building on resilience."
“This is the loudest wake-up call. We can no longer use the planet's resources as we have so far. We don't need Arctic oil. We need to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energies if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change and the collapse of our life support systems. "
Director Ressler thinks it is "absolutely critical" that people understand that there are still thriving communities in the Arctic.
"I think maybe there is some misunderstanding about the Arctic or the way it has been portrayed in the past as that kind of magical, otherworldly place," he said. "Perhaps many people do not even realize that there are thriving communities there that are facing these immediate challenges."
“With the film this is one of the greatest challenges, not only challenges but also opportunities that we have seen ... to somehow reverse this perception and say that there are people living here who live in connection and balance with the Nature in a way that the rest of the world has really lost. "
The Last Ice will air on National Geographic WILD on October 12th.
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