She spends time going over the ethical health care dilemma faced by Canadian scientists. Do they warn native Arctic peoples to stop eating their traditional foods, which are responsible for toxin loads in some people that qualify their bodies as hazardous waste? Or do the health benefits of traditional foods, which have kept these populations virtually free of heart disease, for example, outweigh the risk from toxins? This is complicated by the cultural importance of native foods and the lack of affordable alternatives in a land where farming is impossible.
This neatly illustrates that the impacts of contamination are not limited to humans because humans are at the end of the line of consumers in Arctic ecosystems. Studying wildlife in the Arctic is challenging to say the least, but Cone visits with scientists who have been working with seals, whales, and polar bears and trying to document the effects of chemical contamination on these and other creatures. One does not finish Silent Snow feeling any optimism for the fate of polar bears; if high toxin loads compromising their immune systems and altering their hormones don't doom them, global warming will.
Finally, Cone describes various efforts (or lack thereof) of industrial nations to curb chemical contamination, and what the future might hold. Sympathetic while still being objective, accurate, and authentic, Cone has written an important book that it a must-read. After reading it, the Arctic doesn't seem so far away, but it's enormous problems feel dangerously close - perhaps, after all, right next door.