Filmmakers bring Arctic climate change to Dal

By Olivia Rempel

"An Inuit camp as seen in the film, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change"
An Inuit camp as seen in the film, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

Filmmakers Zacharias Kanuk and Ian Mauro brought their film Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change this past Thursday to an audience of sustainability students and members of the public.

The film consists of a series of interviews led by Kanuk and Mauro with elders of Inuit communities across the Canadian Arctic.

Inuktitut is the only language spoken in the film. This, however, is one of the film’s selling points.

“The scientists were coming up to the Arctic and studying climate change, and they were never asking the people,” says Kanuk.It is this film that allows their voices to be heard.”

Mauro lived in the Arctic for ten years as a teacher and witnessed the climate change taking place there. His friends and ‘family’ in the Arctic recruited him to climate change activism.

“You keep coming up here, and you need to do something about it,” Mauro remembers an Inuit teacher telling him.

“The implication was you can’t just be a climate change tourist, you can’t just come here and watch it melt,” says Mauro, who is now an environmental scientist.

Ian Mauro speaks at Dalhousie (Olivia Rempel photo)

Kanuk, a native of Igloolik, Nunavut, started out as a wood carver and used the money he saved selling his carvings to buy his first camera. His filmmaking career began to hit the radar with Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, his most highly acclaimed film that won multiple Genie Awards and was Canada’s top grossing film released in 2002.

Kanuk and Mauro were invited to speak at Dalhousie by the College of Sustainability and the School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES).

“I think universities in general tend to exclude indigenous knowledge holders and, to me, it’s fundamentally important to have scholars from the university and scholars from the community come together and share their knowledge, because we’re all in this together” says Heather Castleden, the SRES faculty manager.

External links
The filmmakers have offered their documentary on their website, free for anyone to view.

The students in the audience were surprised at how severely the effects of climate change are felt in the Arctic. Many felt that more people in the south should be more aware of what is happening in the north.

“It’s the most obvious example of climate change and it’s the most dramatic example,” says sustainability student Shauna Doll, “I think it’s the one thing that will make people shut up and listen and maybe try to change something.”

A big problem is the melting of sea ice, which has forced polar bears off the floes and onto the land. This is quickly becoming a safety issue for many villages.

Related audio

Ian Mauro on Inuit adaptation

The Inuit elders in the film talk about how climate change has affected the landscape and has made life up north even more challenging. One of the most tragic lines in the film, said by a shaking Inuit woman, translates into, “those beautiful glaciers. It seemed they would never melt… All the glaciers by the shore are gone now.”

The film illustrates how climate change is affecting the Arctic, but during the question and answer session, Kanuk and Mauro explain that this is a worldwide problem.

“We need to choose whether we’re going to be part of the problem or part of the solution,” says Mauro.