Climate change impacts on the health and livelihoods of Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario
Belanger, Riley J.
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Climate change is expected to affect people’s health and livelihoods in northern Indigenous communities more adversely than in others due to existing socio-economic conditions and direct reliance on the environment to support Indigenous livelihoods. The central research questions of this study are: How has climate change affected Indigenous livelihoods and Indigenous health in Northern Ontario communities, and how might these be affected into the future? These were answered by conducting research in two parts: a comprehensive literature review, and interviews with 15 members of a First Nation community. From the literature and interviews, Indigenous community members made significant observations related to climate change including increasingly unpredictable and intense weather, declines in ice cover duration and ice thickness, declines in the abundance of some traditional food species, and negative health outcomes. Several participants had experienced severe enough changes that their livelihoods had been diminished due to a decreasing ability to participate in certain traditional activities such as hunting, ice fishing, and trapping and a decline in harvest success for traditional foods like moose, fish, and blueberries. Projections of changes in environmental conditions and traditional food species abundance throughout this century demonstrated that in Northern Ontario, there will be continuing trends of declines in ice cover duration and ice thickness, increasingly intense weather, more frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves and forest fires, declines in water quality due to proliferation of waterborne diseases and the occurrence of cyanobacterial algal blooms, and declines in the abundance of moose and preferred fish species.