There was less snow this year as compared to others and this was an obvious fact to many hunters on the James Bay coast. Normally, goose-hunting season starts in early April and lasts until the middle of May. This year many hunters were disappointed to find out that the hunting season was cut short. Unusually warm weather arrived early this year and melted most of the snow and ice. People are usually happy to see the warm weather, but if the temperatures rise too quickly and too high then that creates problems.
This year, hunters watched the snow in the muskeg and forests disappear over a two-week-long warm spell. The frozen landscape is the only way to travel over the muskeg. In previous years, the weather at least dipped below zero at night but this spring has been very unusual with the temperature hovering above the freezing point even after dark.
Historically, there was always the danger of running into a warm spell but it was rare. It is normal during hunting season for our hunters to navigate the remnants of snow, ice and pools of water to reach home in time before the spring break-up. The danger is that as the weather warms up the ice and snow will disappear and our hunters will be trapped out on the land as it is impossible to come back by snowmobile. It also becomes difficult to keep any of the goose kills fresh as the temperatures rise.
The unusually warm spring was very noticeable to many Elders in my community. This type of event has occurred in the past but it seems to be happening more often with time. One example of changing weather in the north has to do with the freeze-up period. Many Elders remember a time when it was normal to access Akamiski Island on James Bay before Christmas. Now it is considered normal to wait until early January before it is safe to cross the strait to the island.
These changes are not considered gradual or trivial by our Elders and traditional people in the north. These are critical signs that something is wrong. These new weather conditions are making me consider why these changes are taking place in our part of the world up on the James Bay coast. When I did a little research into what the possible causes might be I found out that these changes are also happening in other parts of the world.
Many concerned people, scientists and environmentalists have been talking about global warming for some time. At first, their concerns were thought of as exaggerations and scare mongering but now there seems to be many obvious changes taking place that should make us take them more seriously. There are many reports and examples of how weather patterns are changing in the Arctic. It is said that this sensitive region of the world acts as a barometer for the rest of the globe.
There is great argument amongst many different groups of scientists and politicians. Some say that these changes are a natural part of our world and occur from time to time during the ages. I am no scientist or meteorologist but it seems rather coincidental that the steadily rising temperatures in our world are occurring during a period of our civilization’s greatest and fastest growth in production and development.
When you think about it, there is cause for concern. In the distant past, the world was relatively stable and most of the changes in the air, the water and on the ground were caused by nature. Now with the use of modern machinery and mass production, we are pumping tons of material, gases and chemicals into the air, ground and water. At first we put our trust in the fact that nature would take its course to save us by recycling or decomposing our waste. Now we are starting to notice great tracts of deforestation, problems with waste disposal, smog in our cities and difficulties disposing of dangerous chemicals.
We live in what is considered a small space in the universe and it is all we have. If we lived in a house and we tried to destroy it, this would be considered unthinkable, insane and at the very least irresponsible. So, why do we do continue on a path of production at all costs in the world we live in?
My people on the James Bay coast are still close to the land and we notice the changes that are taking place in our world first hand. It affects us immediately with changes on the land and in the animal and bird populations. Many of our Elders are becoming concerned about the future and I think it is time that we all should start thinking about making the future of our environment a major issue. After all, this is our home.