The Edge of The World

A Nenets herder seeks a safe passage through the Bovanenkovo gas field—an ever-growing tangle of gas rigs, pipelines, roads, and buildings—sitting smack in the middle of Brigade #4’s traditional migration route.

“The Nenets are one of the most resilient indigenous groups in the Arctic,” says Bruce Forbes of the University of Lapland in Finland. The Nenets have always lived close to the edge; in their language, Yamal means “edge of the world.” But these days some of them seem precariously close to falling off. The Yamal region has been enduring record-hot summers, when it’s hard for reindeer to pull the loaded sleds across the dry tundra. Yet climate change isn’t even the greatest threat to the Nenets: Development is. Russia’s quest for new sources of hydrocarbons has encroached on pastures, restricting the essential migration of some of the herds.