September 6, 2019
Circumpolar plane shaming is on the rise, as are Arctic bacteria clouds. Cleaning polar bear skulls, flaming ospreys, Inuit stars at TIFF, and climbing Mars, in Iceland. All in this week’s newsletter.

A red-throated loon spotted by photographer Alexandre Paiement during a survey in Deception Bay, Nunavik. (via Instagram)


Lots of arts news this week from the North, which is fitting as we're all hard at work on our November arts special. As I type this very newsletter the production team is arranging various carvings and knitted crafts in our magazine's rarely-used photo room. Look for that on newsstands in a couple of months. 

The Up Here office will probably sit down next week and debate a shortlist of candidates for our annual Northerner of the Year (look for that in December) so a reminder that we want your input! Email suggestions to

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Flygskam is a sure contender for word of the year, says Forbes. Plane shame—AKA the guilt you feel for flying in a climate crisis—is hitting Sweden hard. Passenger numbers are down five per cent in the country’s biggest airports and over 14,000 Swedes are promising to give up air travel completely. Across the border, three out of four Norwegians really don’t care.

Northern Norway, like northern Canada, is “totally dependent” on air travel and feeling guilty about travel choices isn't really an option when there isn't really a choice. In other words, no need for flygskam in Nunavut

But Torontonians should take a long look in the mirror. Corporate commuters tend to be the biggest contributors to airplane emissions. Reporter
Maxine Joselow writes that a small subset of Americans (12 per cent) are responsible for two-thirds of that country’s airplane emissions.

If you are feeling some shame, Dan Rutherford, a program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, says people should aim to "fly like a NERD.” That would be: use New planes; buy Economy seats; fly Regular instead of jumbo jets; and travel Direct. All of which produce fewer emissions.

If there is a major concern for air travel in the North it's probably the number of tourists flying up every season. Tourism’s economic benefits are much sought after, but the ecological impact is becoming an increasing concern in circumpolar countries. One beloved scenic vista in Norway that was visited by just 1,000 tourists in 2008 played host to 90,000 last year.

“The challenge was: Where do I go for a piss? Where do I leave my garbage?” Haaken Michael Christensen, ecologist and senior adviser to adventure tourism with Innovation Norway,
tells Outdoor Magazine. “The trails didn’t have the infrastructure to handle that.”

Travellers not cleaning up for themselves can certainly make for a crappy trip (thanks for the pun,
CBC). Stephanie Coombes learned this when she paddled the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City with her husband and two young sons this summer. 

“I think what we were just surprised about was just how much, well, poop and toilet paper we found at every campsite along the river,” she says. For more on the responsible choice when nature calls in the wild,
check out this article from Karen McColl that we published back in March. (Various)

Auroras spread out over the old town in Hay River, NWT. Courtesy of photographer Aaron Tambour. (via Instagram)

Zacharias Kunuk’s latest film screens for the public next week at the Toronto International Film Festival. One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk is set on north Baffin Island in 1961 and tells the story of a nomadic Inuit band who are confronted by big changes after the visit of a white man named Boss. Here’s the trailer. (Nunavut News)

Kunuk is obviously a TIFF star. His 2001 epic Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner was voted by festival members in 2015 as the greatest Canadian film ever made. Atanarjuat himself, actor Natan Ungalaaq, can next be seen starring in Nyla Innuksuk’s Pangnirtung-shot alien invasion film Slash/Back. Innuksuk was profiled in the fall edition of Playback magazine as one of the country’s upcoming five filmmakers to watch. (Playback)

Speaking of film, Bill Morrison is hoping to uncover some more lost movies dumped around Dawson City. The director previously assembled a documentary out of hundreds of old film reels discovered decades ago buried in the permafrost. The reels of silent movies, travelogues, and news footage from the '20s had been used as infill for a swimming pool (which was cheaper than shipping them back south). Morrison says there’s a good chance more movies are buried in the same spot. He also thinks reels dumped in the Yukon River could still be salvaged. (CBC)

A number of Inuit artists will take the stage next week at the National Arts Centre’s Mòshkamo festival in Ottawa. Susan Aglukark, Riit, Josh Q and the Trade-offs, Silla and Rise, and more will be performing at the festival, which celebrates the launch of NAC’s Indigenous theatre department. (Nunatsiaq)

Muri is a new book inspired by Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, that takes place in a near-future ravaged by cataclysmic climate change and tells the story of a ship tasked with relocating the last of the Arctic’s polar bears to Antartica, where they might have a shot at survival. It’s part of the burgeoning genre of climate-themed science fiction, or “cli-fi.” (Yale Climate Connections)

Google Street View is coming to the trails of Fort Smith. The town’s economic development officer, Diane Seals, brought one of the Silicon Valley company's street-view cameras into Wood Buffalo National Park last month. (Cabin Radio)
Fort Smith proves you don't have to go too far North of 60 to have a good time. (Up Here)

Jason Sudlovenick has spent his summer cleaning the skulls of 30 polar bears, 10 walrus, a caribou, and “a handful of wolverines, wolves, and foxes.” Former Up Here editor Elaine Anselmi talks to the man behind Nunavut Skulls, a new Iqaluit business that turns Arctic bones into polished keepsakes. (Nunatsiaq)

Arctic storms are lifting bacteria up from algae blooms in ocean waters and depositing them into the atmosphere, says a new study from the American Geophysical Union. The bacterial “aerosols” swirling about drastically raise the freezing point of clouds, causing new and unpredictable weather phenomenon. “The Arctic's accelerated warming could cause more algae blooms as well as more bacteria of the type found to seed clouds, in turn, further affecting its weather systems.” (Science Daily)

When Joseph Mukamba came to Canada from Zimbabwe he figured he’d end up in Toronto. Try Łutsël K’é instead. Mukamba is chef at the East Arm Café, the only restaurant (food truck, in fact) in the small NWT community. (CBC)

This week in who’s suing the government: mining organizations in the Yukon are likely going to take the territorial government to court over now unusable mineral claims in the protected Peel Watershed. Land-use planning for the Peel started in 2004 but the government waited six years before installing a staking ban in the area. This produced a staking bubble. Mineral claims in the area went from 1,500 in 2004 to over 8,400 today. (Yukon News)

Sabotage to the NWT’s fibre lines that caused two telecommunication outages this past summer cost Yellowknife businesses $10 million, estimates the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Elsewhere, Iqaluit is experiencing periodic cellphone and internet outages over the past two weeks because…um…it’s raining? Meanwhile, a single family of ospreys who built their nest on power lines is to blame for a series of power outages this summer in Yellowknife. The NWT Power Corporation is spending $10,000 on a raised nesting platform for the birds to avoid any “flaming ospreys” causing future disruptions or forest fires. (CBC, Cabin Radio)


Retreating glaciers are revealing new islands. A Russian expedition recently mapped five small islands in the far north that were previously hidden under the Nansen Glacier. The archipelago was discovered by a university student in 2016, who received a special honorary diploma for her find. Over 30 new islands, capes, and bays have been found in the region over the past four years. (BBC)

Alaskans are racing to collect the knowledge of elders in a fight against time to save the state’s 20 Indigenous languages from dying out. Gwich’in, for example, has just 300 fluent speakers left and almost all of them are over 60. (Vice)

Greenland is hoping to seize on the global attention from Donald Trump’s bizarre offer to buy the country and turn the president's buzz marketing into bargaining power with Denmark. “Greenland, which already has a large degree of autonomy, can declare independence whenever it no longer needs financial support from Denmark. As polar ice melts, opening new opportunities for shipping and mining, that day no longer seems so far off. And Denmark, interested in maintaining a presence in the Arctic, is suddenly a little more attentive.” (NPR)

The Iceland Space Agency is testing out a spacesuit prototype designed to replicate manned-missions to Mars. The suit isn’t actually intended for space travel; more so it's to let astronauts here on Earth feel what it would be like to explore another planet. In this case, by climbing up glaciers and into Icelandic volcanos (
Photo by Dave Hodge/Iceland Space Agency
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