It was with considerable excitement that I've been reading the CBC announcements that the first train to Churchill in over a year has has finally left the station. Yeah!! See the video footage here for some fun shots of the train, track repair, and Churchill in the snow.
The rail trip was such an important part of my discovery of Churchill. I wanted to do as low impact an ecotour trip as I could. Flying seemed inherently extravagant - financially and jet fuel/eco wise. The train was the only other option. There are no roads to Churchill and I'm too soft to consider kayaking and portaging for hundred's of miles. I also find that train travel is the ideal way to savor the transitions from start point to end point when I travel. The shifts from urban to suburban to rural to, well...to tundra..were at a human-acknowledgeable pace. And fascinating. Mile by mile you could see the city change to farm, the farm to lake and tree line, the tree line move to tundra. On the way home it was also the best to watch northern lights across the receding arctic skyline. Train travel is also a great way to meet people (or to observe them if you're an introvert like I am). And if I hadn't gone by train, I'd never have had the fascinating experience of Halloween in Thompson! But seriously, it was an amazing part of the journey and magnified my respect for everyone that is in Churchill and the surrounding areas - trying to make a living in a remote and rugged land. Hopefully there will be a lots less stress now that the train is back on the tracks and running.
The train, and the earlier stories about why the province was willing to help restore the tracks, also speaks to the hard core facts of climate change. Canadians are recognizing the importance of a change in climate that will, ultimately, deeply affect their north. That reminds me to include, here, the link to the 4th National Climate Assessment that the US Gov has released and, so unimaginably, already begun to try to ignore.
The importance of the Arctic, unfrozen and as a key factor in global politics is well described in After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic by Alun Anderson. If you want to get a grasp on why there is extensive development happening in the Arctic in Russia, or why the Canadians are interested in their northern-most border, I'd highly recommend giving it a read. Oh, and read the summary of the Climate Assessment. It's not a comfortable read. But it's important. For the bears, as always. But also for the rest of us.