Youth of the Beaufort Delta aren’t taking climate change lying down, and they have the declaration to prove it.
Following a three-day conference March 6-8 at the Ninhat Gwich’in Council building where the group of youth learned about erosion of the coastline around Tuktoyaktuk, changes in ocean chemistry from climate change, how scientists track and monitor Beluga whales and how scientists know what climate in the distant past was like, the group drafted a one page document.
“We wanted to take the youth and ask them what are their ideas, do a little bit of education and come together and think about solutions to the bigger problems,” said organizer Maddysen Kingmiaqtuq-Devlin, a 2019 alumnus of Students on Ice who put the conference together with the help of her father, Tony. “So far it’s mostly been observing, a lot of idea creating. I’m very impressed by all the very intelligent people that have come to this conference. They’re very mature and able to take the information and do something with it.”
Having completed the Students on Ice Program, Kingiaqtuq-Devlin was able to access the Expeditions to Community (E2C) program, which covered the costs of putting the conference on.
The declaration was inspired by similar declarations written by the Gwich’in Youth from the 2016 Gwich’in Gathering in Arctic Village, Alaska and Yukon First Nations Youth earlier in 2020.
After everyone met up March 6 for an icebreaker, students heard from Climate Action Inuvik organizer Brad Wade and Aurora College’s Joel McAllister, who gave them an update on the research into permafrost slumping.
Day two was all classwork, with four presentations on various aspects of climate change-related science. First was Dustin Whalen, who walked the students through the receding coastline along Tuktoyaktuk from increased water activity due to a reduction in ice. Martine Lizotte of Laval University then led the students through a lesson on ocean chemistry.
“I focused on bio-geochemistry, looking into the impacts to microbes like phytoplankton and bacteria and their productions of gases that related to climate,” said Lizotte. “There’s lots we don’t know about the impacts of climate change on those microbes and the impacts those microbes could have on climate change. So there are lots to study.”
Beluga whale researcher Lisa Loseto then gave a briefing on a new way of tagging Beluga whales that was attempted this last season that greatly reduces the stress on the animal, and Jade Falardeau closed the day off with an explanation on how scientists can use tree rings, ice cores and sediment samples to map out what the climate looked like in the past.
Students wrapped up the second day with a screening of Tuk TV’s documentary “Happening to Us”, a showcase of the challenges faced by the hamlet because of climate change that was shown seven times at the United Nations Cop25 conference in Madrid last December.
Day three was a policy jam session, where the youth brainstormed what would find its way into the declaration.
Overall, Kingmiaqtuq-Devlin said she was happy with how the conference went.
“A lot of people were asking questions on how can we help keep the coastal erosion in Tuktoyaktuk from ruining all the buildings,” she said. “Some people were brainstorming different ideas, could you maybe put a wall or something to stop the waves.
“I was feeling very nervous, but now that I’m here with such an open minded crowd. It’s great to have people who want to make a change. All of them have an interest in taking action. That’s the best part.”
Read the declaration in full: