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Project May 1, 2014

As Greenland's Ice Melts, Polar Bears Turn on Humans


Image by Jonathan Vigliotti. Greenland, 2013.

There's a new sheriff in the remote Greenland town of Ittoqqortoormiit. Erling Madsen is the mayor of this northeastern Arctic territory, but these days his job is to protect the roughly 450 Inuits that call this jagged coastal enclave home.

The threat? Polar bears. As the ice here has thinned due to climate change, polar bears are unable to reach seals, their dinner of choice. Hungry and desperate, they have turned to garbage cans in nearby settlements. Unlike raccoons in suburban America, the polar bear doesn't scatter into the night if confronted by man.

Human vs. polar bear conflict is on the rise around the Arctic Circle, causing Inuit communities throughout the region to adapt, including hiring "Bear Patrols" such as the one Madsen leads. While Ittoqortoormiit is far from the Main Streets of America, the obstacles the village faces could be a warning sign for coastal communities around the globe.

In this project, Emmy Award-winning journalist Jonathan Vigliotti documents the changing landscape of the Arctic, the science behind this new climate frontier, and what the world's leading researchers believe the future holds.


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Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change