EGU2020-12661, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Voices of the Sea Ice: engaging an Arctic community to communicate impacts of climate change

David Lipson1, Kim Reasor1, and Kååre Sikuaq Erickson2
David Lipson et al.
  • 1San Diego State University, Biology, United States of America (
  • 2UIC Science (Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation) Utqiagvik, Alaska, United States of America

The predominantly Inupiat people of Utqiaġvik, Alaska are among those who will be most impacted by
climate change and the loss of Arctic sea ice in the near future. Subsistence hunting of marine mammals
associated with sea ice is central to the Inupiat way of life. Furthermore, their coastal homes and
infrastructure are increasingly subject to damage from increased wave action on ice-free Beaufort and
Chukchi Seas. While the people of this region are among the most directly vulnerable to climate change,
the subject is not often discussed in the elementary school curriculum. Meanwhile, in many other parts
of the world, the impacts of climate change are viewed as abstract and remote. We worked with fifth
grade children in Utqiaġvik both to educate them, but also to engage them in helping us communicate
to rest of the world, in an emotionally resonant way, the direct impacts of climate change on families in
this Arctic region.
The team consisted of a scientist (Lipson), an artist (Reasor) and an outreach specialist (Erickson) of
Inupiat heritage from a village in Alaska. We worked with four 5th grade classes of about 25 students
each at Fred Ipalook Elementary in Utqiaġvik, AK. The scientist gave a short lecture about sea ice and
climate change in the Arctic, with emphasis on local impacts to hunting and infrastructure (with
interjections from the local outreach specialist). We then showed the students a large poster of
historical and projected sea ice decline, and asked the students to help us fill in the white space beneath
the lines. The artist led the children in making small art pieces that represent things that are important
to their lives in Utqiaġvik (they were encouraged to paint animals, but they were free to do whatever
they wanted). We returned to the class later that week and had each student briefly introduce
themselves and their painting, and place it to the large graph of sea ice decline, which included the dire
predictions of the RCP8.5 scenario. At the end we added the more hopeful RCP2.6 scenario to end on a
positive note. The artist then painted in the more hopeful green line by hand.
The result was a poster showing historical and projected Arctic sea ice cover, with 100 beautiful
paintings by children of things that are dear to them about their home being squeezed into a smaller
region as the sea ice cover diminishes. We scanned all the artwork to make a digital version of the
poster, and left the original with the school. These materials are being converted into an interactive
webpage where viewers can click on the individual painting for detail, and get selected recordings of the
children’s statements about their artwork. This project can serve as a nucleus for communicating to
other classes and adults about the real impacts of climate change in people’s lives.

How to cite: Lipson, D., Reasor, K., and Erickson, K. S.: Voices of the Sea Ice: engaging an Arctic community to communicate impacts of climate change, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-12661,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-12661, R.Valli Divya, 08 May 2020

    Educating the younger generation about impacts of climate change is very important for bringing positive solutions dealing with climate change.