"Inventing a Vocabulary to Help Inuit People Talk About Climate Change"

"One team is working with Inuvialuit elders to come up with a renewable energy terminology—and maybe revive a dying language"

"Canada’s Northwest Territories comprise one of the fastest-warming regions of the Arctic. Here, residents see spring arrive weeks earlier than it used to, while the ground beneath their homes thaws and slumps. Yet while much of the world talks about solar power, wind energy and other sustainable energy technologies to slow climate warming, Inuvialuit communities can't do the same—at least not in their indigenous language, because the words for these options don't exist.

Sheena Adams is partnering with Inuvialuit elders to change this, by creating a vocabulary around renewable energy in their language of Inuvialuktun. About 20 percent of roughly 3,100 Inuvialuit people speak this language conversationally today, with most also speaking English. This means the project has twin goals: to draw attention to renewable energy options, as well as to help revitalize a declining language, says Adams, a graduate student in environment and sustainability at Royal Roads University in British Columbia.

“There is a big push to help restore those languages because, like a lot of indigenous languages in the world, we are losing them,” she says. “So I thought this would be a good way to support that movement while promoting renewable energy and conservation.” "

Laura Poppick reports for Smithsonian October 17, 2017.

Source: Smithsonian, 10/19/2017