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The Nenets of Yamal Peninsula

The nomadic Nenets tribes of the Yamal Peninsula have retained their traditional culture and simple way of life for over a thousand years. Surviving Stalinist Russia and the interests of the gas drilling company Gazprom they now face a new threat, climate Change and their landscape is dramatically changing. In recent years, this rich, rugged and inaccessible peninsula in Northern Siberia has been the focus of media headlines. The world's largest energy company Gazprom, is trying to fully exploit Russia's largest gas field containing an estimated half of the world’s reserves. Gazprom has embarked on an extensive venture to cash in on these gas reserves, becoming Russia’s largest energy project in history. At the same time the landscape in Yamal is changing as the Arctic permafrost thaws due to warmer temperatures in the Arctic. Scientists are concerned that millions of tonnes of methane locked in the thawing permafrost could be a ticking time bomb, a major tipping point for the world's climate system.

During the summer this expansive muskeg landscape is light twenty-four hours a day. In winter, darkness shrouds the peninsula with snow metres thick and temperatures can plummet to below minus fifty during the very coldest days. The Nenets people continue to live here, united in this extreme environment by a tough work ethic dependent on families functioning as a team. The tribes here are the guardians of a nomadic style of reindeer-herding not seen anywhere else in the world. They know this landscape intimately, travelling three to ten kilometres every few days in summer and up to thirty kilometres in the winter. Lakes they live by and depend on for food are disappearing as the permafrost underneath collapses. The Nenets now expect to survive their sustainable tradition for no more than forty years.

See also

A changing landscape. Yamal Peninsula, Russia. 70.02, 68.5

The nomadic Nenets tribes of the Yamal Peninsula have retained their traditional culture and simple way of life for over a thousand years. Surviving Stalinist Russia and the interests of the gas drilling company Gazprom they now face a new threat, climate change. The permafrost landscape they have survived on is now beginning to dramatically thaw. Colour version.

Whaling in the shadow of oil. Alaska, U.S.

Shell's plans to drill offshore in the Alaskan Arctic has divided the native communities of the North Slope Borough. The tense run off battle in the Borough elections reflected a community that is torn by the proposed offshore development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Alaska's Arctic people now stand at a crossroads between continued benefits from industry generated revenues and protecting the marine environment they have depended on for thousands of years