Press release

Northern youth moving from knowledge to action in lead-up to International Polar Year conference

December 4, 2011

WINNIPEG—December 5, 2011—While the world gathers to discuss climate change in Durban, a group of northern youth are meeting online to talk about climate change in preparation for the upcoming International Polar Year (IPY) conference being held in Montreal in April 2012.

Though scattered across the globe, young northerners are meeting at, an online forum designed to support northern youth dialogue. The online event is hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and is aimed at gathering stories from northern youth from around the circumpolar North. Youth who participate in the Ookpik forum will be eligible to be part of a group of youth leaders who will attend and present at the IPY conference in Montreal.

The following are some of their stories:

Elizabeth Zarpa from Goose Bay, Labrador said, "We live close to the environment and we have for generations. My grandparents on both sides grew up in a totally different world than what I live in now. They travelled with the seasons and ate more wild meat and fish than I do now, but it doesn't make me any less Inuk. I am still from the North and climate changes are affecting me."

Niko Partanen of Finland, who is currently studying in Russia, said, "I interviewed yesterday an elder Komi woman who lives in the western Udora region of the Komi Republic. She was born in 1948, and lived there most of her life. She said that the weather has been changing there also. Nowadays the winters are milder than they used to be and the summers dryer. The rivers also have less water, there are sandy islands appearing and sandy banks of the rivers are wider. It is more difficult to move with boats on some smaller rivers. There is even less fish to catch."

Joe Mackenzie from Yellowknife said, "I want to do what I can to help out the environment for my region and most importantly, the caribou herds. For thousands of years since the end of the Ice Age my people, the Dogrib First Nations, have been hunting them for food since they are our main source of food in the North. Since the climate is changing, the herds are moving a bit further up north like near Great Bear Lake and the cost of food has gone up since it has to be imported food from south."

Bali Symenuk of the Yukon said, "This is the best opportunity for youth from remote isolated communities to connect during a time when the North is facing challenges."

Pauline Gerrard, IISD's circumpolar leaders program coordinator said, "It is important for northern youth to share their experiences so others can understand their concerns. These young people will have to take the actions required to address climate change in the North."

The theme of the conference is knowledge and change. To read more stories or to take part in the online forum, go to

To apply to be a young leader at IPY in Montreal, go to -end-

For more information, please contact: Pauline Gerrard, IISD training coordinator at +1 (204) 958-7727 or; or Nona Pelletier, IISD manager, public affairs at +1 204 958-7740 or cell: +1 204 962-1303 or

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.