Energy costs, hard problems and initiatives
From an Australian perspective it is hard to imagine the combination of factors confronting building design, construction and health in the polar region.
Alaska has a width equal to the distance from Maine (NE USA) to San Diego (SW USA), a small population dispersed throughout a landscape that experiences an annual temperature variation of 90C (from -55C in winter to +35C in summer), regular cloud cover and waterways that make air and land travel difficult even in summer.
Fuel costs are rising quickly and the immediate impacts of climate change are becoming obvious even to those not willing to attribute the causes of the change to human activity. Climate change is thawing the perma-frosted ground that so many buildings have relied on for stability and structural collapse is becoming more common. Storm events and ice flow events have increased in severity and frequency. These have threatened many coastal villages to the point that villages have been relocated inland.
As climate changes, landscape changes and with that animal habitat changes and the health impacts on a range of polar north countries are being observed and recorded. Traditional food sources are changing, food storage in natural ground ice ‘freezers’ are now less common as the ground thaws. Beaver populations moving north in Sweden leading to drinking water contamination, insects such as mosquitoes and ticks having a major impact on health.
Poorer communities, isolated and small in size, are the first to suffer from the rising costs, limited resources and environmental change. The inevitable decline in health follows.