Reindeer herders confront a new climate
Text and photographs by Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele
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REINDEER HUSBANDRY has supported civilization across the Eurasian Arctic and subarctic for thousands of years. As the semi-nomadic Sámi herdsmen of northern Norway face irreversible impacts from global warming, more immediate challenges hinder their ability to adapt. Herders are accustomed to the highly variable Arctic environment. But they now face changing climate conditions and privatization by oil companies, mining operations, and residential construction, all of which limit their ability to keep their animals “exactly in the right place at the right time,” says Niklas Labba, a Sámi herder. “I think that there are problems bigger than global warming, more immediate and more important to look at. But in the long term, global warming is the most important thing, because if you want to have reindeer herding in one hundred years, you must have the nature and the conditions to herd the reindeer.”
A note from the editors: In March 2008, Orion co-sponsored the second annual Our World portfolio review, which is hosted by PhotoAlliance, a San Francisco–based nonprofit dedicated to photography. Thirty-five reviewers and more than sixty artists from across the country participated. A select subcommittee of reviewers from various backgrounds granted the inaugural Orion/PhotoAlliance Award to Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele for their ongoing project “Facing Climate Change.” The committee’s decision was unanimous. “We see a lot of global warming projects,” said Orion picture editor Jason Houston. “‘Facing Climate Change’ stands out not only at this review, but among them all.”
These pages include a selection from one aspect of the portfolio: Sámi reindeer herdsmen. For additional elements of the climate change portfolio click here.