‘The End of Ice,’ and the Arctic Communities Already Grappling With a Warming World

A new book highlights the changes endured by inhabitants of the Arctic, serving as a harbinger of what’s to come in lower latitudes

The Aleutian people of the tundra-covered Alaskan island of St. Paul, hundreds of miles from the mainland, used to count on giant rookeries of northern fur seals every year for pelts and meat. They hunted plenty of fish and birds, too, but their sources of food, especially the once iconic fur seals, have drastically dwindled, transforming their way of life.

Many St. Paul residents now attribute the vanishing fur seals to climate change—or “climate disruption,” as Dahr Jamail, an environmental journalist and mountaineer, often calls it. Instead of a looming, abstract threat projected sometime in the future, climate change now affects people living near the poles in visible ways. These changes in the Arctic don’t stay in the Arctic, as climate effects inevitably travel down to lower latitudes, but people in the northern parts of the world live on the front lines of a warming, melting and morphing planet.

In his new book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, Jamail travels to meet members of these communities and chronicle their stories. While reporting the latest climate science from the field, including melting ice sheets, rising seas and bleaching coral reefs, Jamail never loses sight of the people already being directly affected, including fishers, hunters, farmers and island-dwellers like those of St. Paul.

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