One of the aspects of this trip is to talk to people we meet on the way about their perception of climate change and the way it has changed their way of life. This summary of what we gathered so far is not scientific. First of all, Fairbanks experienced its warmest January and coldest February since the 20’s and there was still a lot of snow in late may (25 feet at sea level and 100 feet on the tops).
One of the consequences is the fact that bears became active late and are stillactively looking for food at this time of year, which is very unusual. That is the reason why people travelling in bear country (us, for example!) have to be particularly careful. Another consequence is the change of migratory routes: cariboos and salmons are the most obvious examples. This has a very strong impact on first nations settlements: they have been living for hundreds of years at locations where harvesting and hunting were possible. The fact that some species changed their migratory routes means they will have to move. Ice melting is one of the most known impact of climate change. Alaskan and Canadian polar bears strongly suffer from it. They eat mainly seals which live on ice. As ice is melting, bears have to swim longer distances before ice and therefore seals. Most of them die from starvation or exhaustion. What is less known suffer from the same symptoms. They hunt seals during winter using snowmobiles. They can’t travel anymore to their hunting spots as there is no ice and, once again, this means several first nations settlements will disappear.
Another impact of climate change is pine beetle disease. Pine beetles have been living in British Columbia for several years but larva used to die during cold winters. It’s not the case anymore with mild temperatures and, therefore, the pine beetle population is growing rapidly. They eat trees (a tree dies within 5 years once attacked) and we saw massive areas of forest destroyed when cycling across British Columbia.
We experienced the following records:
– the worst flooding in Vanderhoof of the last 30 years
– the most important rainfall since 1974 in Whitehorse.
Regarding general behaviors, we have been struck by the proportion of 4-wheel drive, pick-ups and, more surprisingly, massive personal buses (generally pulling a 4-wheel drive) on the road. However, we have also been impressed by the refund given to you when you bring bottles back: this is an old idea worth putting back in place in Europe.
Tip of the day: as already mentioned, Alayna gave us a wallet made out of fruit juice bottles: it is water-proof and very handy. Give a thought about it.