Why you need to care about the Arctic, and care now!


Johanne Jerijærvi: one of the ‘Nansen Kids’

On the evening of the 24th of January 2016 Johanne Jerijærvi of Kirkenes, Norway presented the remarkable 2015 she had had. At the age of only 13 she, and 3 other children from Norway, had skied to the North Pole for Norwegian news channel NRK. The purpose of the expedition was to highlight to other children throughout Norway how climate change is affecting one of the last truly wild landscapes of the world and the results of the ‘Nansen Kids Expedition’ have been profound.

On stage in front of several hundred Arctic Frontiers delegates Johanne talked about her experience skiing to the North Pole, why it was an important experience for her and what has happened since they made the trip; namely being personally invited to present at COP21 in Paris by Ban Ki Moon.

The message which she and the other Nansen Kids had delivered was simple: these are the reasons why you need to care about the Arctic, and care now. So “don’t just drink coffee and talk; do something!”

The message was bold but most importantly it was not coming from the mouth of a politician or industry leader – this was a 13 year old girl worried about what we, every person on this planet, is doing to our world and it’s environment; and quite rightly worried.


Lofoten Islands, Sea Eagle

The Arctic is a region which is having a genuine effect on communities throughout the world yet it is one which is not receiving the attention it needs. It is this worry which has interested us in the Arctic and how we can contribute to it in a positive manner working with communities throughout the region to provide a sustainable future; and it was this reason why we were at this year’s Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway.


23 Emerging Leaders

Many of you might not consider Scotland to be a country of the Arctic but Scottish communities have many similar issues to communities in the High North. Through the work we have been doing in Scotland with communities from Dumfries to the North Isles and everywhere else in between, we believe a similar ethos can be applied to communities within the Arctic region. It was these projects, including our recently launched Possible Scotland campaign, which led to our inclusion as one of 23 ‘Emerging Leaders’ within the Arctic region who undertook the five day programme along the north coast of Norway before presenting as a group at the main Arctic Frontiers conference.

Joining us were scientists, policy advisors, community workers, anthropologists and researchers all with the aim of discussing the risks, investigating the opportunities and providing a sustainable future vision for the Arctic region as a collective voice of the youth of the Arctic (all of us were between the ages of 25 and 35).


Maimo Henriksson; Ambassador – Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

On our trip we were joined by specialists, politicians and industry leaders who presented, discussed and debated the ideas we were putting forward with us. We began in the city of Bodø at 67° north, a city which has been nominated alongside cities such as Tokyo as one of the UN’s Smark Cities, before departing for Svolvær on the Lofoten Islands and ending our trip in Tromsø, just shy of 70° north; the highest city in the world.


Jonny Didriksen; Senior Adviser Norwegian Joint Headquarters

We were introduced to Arctic search and rescue, the changing patterns of fishing in the region and how climate change is severely affecting this industry, renewable technologies and fossil fuel production within the Arctic and mapping the Arctic from space, while 12 of the ‘Emerging Leaders’ also presented their own work as snapshots.


Nordic Architecture

All of these insights, snapshots and experiences contributed to what we eventually created and presented on the same plenary session as the Chief Scientist for NASA amongst other distinguished speakers. This was reflective of the conference as a whole which had a strong focus on the youth of the Arctic and how the youth can shape and contribute positively to this region.

Our project, which was contributed to by people from Norway, Canada, USA, Finland, Russia, Singapore, Austria, China and Scotland, focussed on how the Arctic is on the frontlines of climate change and a region which the world is looking at both for its rich resources and as a climate change “laboratory”, but also how this attention can be harnessed to turn these risks into opportunities, design resilient communities in the future, built by and for the communities themselves and create thriving communities that are healthy parts of the ecosystems they live in.


High North of Norway

We believe the Arctic is an opportunity to be ahead of the curve, to take advantage of new opportunities and industries in the arctic in a responsible and sustainable manner. We want to see smart cities and intelligently-designed homes be the rule, not the exception.

We see an opportunity here to foster collaboration between clean energy companies and communities in the Arctic, where energy production can be local and sustainable. We want to see a certification of sustainable arctic products – where “future arctic” means local food products, arts and crafts that support strong communities and responsible interaction with the environment; products that foster local knowledge and sustainability, and bring income to isolated communities.


Fishing plays an important role in north of Norway

We have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve – the need for adaptation and change is the golden opportunity to embrace everything we’ve learned through research and as a global community in order to help the communities in Arctic be the best they can be.


Svolvær, Lofoten Islands

We want an Arctic of thriving communities, where communities innovate and share knowledge; communities that generate solutions for themselves and each other’s challenges. Local agencies can create new types of economic activities or revitalize the old. We can share knowledge through meaningful education in the local context and spur innovation and knowledge sharing through community collaboration, connecting research with industry, old with young, in a way that helps all stakeholders to make smart, future-oriented decisions.


Daylight in January in north of Norway is down to only 4 hours and in other places complete darkness

There is an opportunity to integrate the Arctic’s diversity into its decision-making. We envision a decision making process that incorporates cross-generational voices, gender equity, is culturally relevant, and is continuous.


Bodø’s watersedge

A challenge to this process can be lack of understanding of communities, cultures, lifestyles and lived experiences in the Arctic by decision makers, it can also be a lack of understanding of decision-making processes by Arctic residents. However can we create exchanges between rural/urban and Arctic/non-Arctic leaders so that they can have real, human experiences – physically present within a culture, a way of life, an economy, an Arctic, is a way to help increase this diversity when decisions are made.


Sunrise at 10am in Lofoten Islands

We envision the creation of a shared “we” in the Arctic, where all stakeholders feel adequately reflected, where many “Arctics” come together on certain issues, understand each other, and forge stronger coalitions in local, regional, and global decision making.

This is our #futurearctic, one which is sustainable, addresses issues facing the world as a whole and create a legacy which generations to come will be proud of. These are the reasons why you need to care about the Arctic, and care now!

You might not think that Scotland is an immediate part of the Arctic, however it is affected by it, and we are contributing to it now, and will be in the future. What happens in the world now affects Scotland, affects the Arctic, which affects Scotland and affects the world. We need to see change, and see change now. We are part of the problem, but we are also part of the solution.

It is only if we work collectively as a ‘community of the world’ will we be able to achieve a future we are all proud of, and that future begins in the Arctic.

Comments (14)

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  1. Valerie says:

    Fascinating, informative and well written. I truly hope Scotland can play a part in protecting this unique environment.

  2. Mathew says:

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with Valerie’s comment above – almost every sentence of this article made me wince.
    Greenland is currently shedding 300 billion tons of ice annually. None of the paltry, vacuous ‘ideas’ contained in the article address this in any meaningful way.
    I hope the writer enjoyed his jolly round the Arctic and I hope he’s making the connection between the CO2 his plane dumped into the upper atmosphere and the climate change affecting the region.

    1. Lateral North says:

      Hi Mathew, thanks for your comment. As highlighted in the article we think that there is a need for action right now to save the Arctic. The world is not going to stay below the target of +1.5 degrees and even +2 degree is unlikely. However, people have populated, and will continue to populate, the Arctic (if anything climate change will push people from the equator towards the poles – this book is worth a read: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-New-North-Laurence-Smith/dp/1846688930 ) so the article, and the work that we did in the Arctic in January, aims to tackle the question of how can we achieve a sustainable approach in the Arctic that does not contribute any further to climate change and save the Arctic. The article is a reflection of the ideas of 23 25-35 year old professionals who work, live, research and engage with the Arctic on a daily basis, and ultimately an opinion piece so glad that you commented.

      Would be good to hear your ideas as well though so we will ask you the same question that we were asked as part of the programme: what is the future arctic you want to see?

      1. Mathew says:

        Hi Lateral North – my ideal Arctic would be completely free of any human presence save for a few Inuit and Sami communities at its fringes. It would be the province of the tern, the fox and the narwhal.
        Your Arctic seems a little different. You say that you would like to take advantage of new opportunities and industries. You wish to be ahead of the curve. Just a while back you wrote an article pleading for Scotland to build container ports (in Orkney I think) so that we could cash in on the new shipping routes opened up by sea ice retreat in the Arctic.
        Now you say that you wish to tackle the question of how we can achieve a sustainable approach to the Arctic that does not contribute any further to climate change. Well how do you propose to do that exactly? I can’t see anything in your article about protecting this environment from the Corporations waiting to exploit it’s oil and mineral wealth.
        The very first image in the article shows a huge screen with the words Industry and Environment. The ‘and’ needs to be replaced with ‘or’. Industry or Environment? It’s a difficult question. Which side are you on?

        1. Lateral North says:

          Hi Mathew, So there are a few things to get through so I’ll answer your most recent comment about the funding of Arctic Frontiers first: the 23 Emerging Leaders were a mix bag of individuals with different opinions. Much like yourself, we (Lateral North) do not think that oil and gas extraction in the Arctic is good for the environment or sustainable – at the end of the day the resource is finite. The director of Conoco Phillips was one of the speakers on our programme, however he was quite clear when he said at the start of his presentation ‘a lot of you (emerging leaders) will not agree with my principles’. This statement was reflected in the 23 Emerging Leaders opinions.

          Also many, if not most, of the speakers at the conference were not from oil companies. Inuit, Sami and other indigenous people throughout the Arctic region were given key slots on plenary sessions and some of the main speakers were one’s who focus on the environment and sustainability.

          Also, to answer your above comment, people have lived in the Arctic (who are not indigenous) for centuries. I can appreciate your points about the Arctic being just for nature save a few indigenous tribes. But I must ask the question of where we stop with that? Do you believe also that the Highlands should be left to nature and not productive? Should everyone live in cities? Where do people live in the future as the world population continues to grow?

          You are correct when you say that we suggested Orkney could take advantage of shipping routes through the Arctic and create a transshipment terminal in Scapa Flow. However, we also said as part of this that by creating a transshipment terminal in Scapa Flow to service northern Europe using a hub and spoke system would drastically cut emissions in comparison to the current port-to-port system being used in northern Europe. Further to this though we suggested that to ensure the sustainability of these shipping routes that ships should only traverse the routes if they use fuels which do not contribute CO2 to the environment.

          In terms of Industry or Environment, we believe that both can be enhanced together sustainably. So Industry and Environment is quite correct. As highlighted by the Orkney project the natural environment can remain unaffected if developed sustainably. At the end of the day though, ‘green industries’ need to catch up fast for any of this to happen; otherwise we will continue to pollute our environment and we will not save the Arctic.

          We are not, as your comment on our Possible Scotland article suggests, in a phase of ‘Let’s Exploit the Arctic’ – we are simply saying that these things are happening and we need to act now. We need to be greener in our positive approach, more sustainable in our solutions and appreciative of the world we are living in.

          (also food for thought, industry has happened throughout our lifetime and will continue to. The fact you and I are having this conversation between my laptop and your laptop/ipad/mobile phone is testament to industry – but how we develop that industry sustainably (and in particularly in the Arctic) is the question?)

          1. Mathew says:

            Hi Lateral North, with regards to Conoco surely you have to ask the questions; Why Norway? and Why sponsor Arctic Frontiers? The answer has to be that they have an interest in the Norwegian sector of the Arctic and are willing to spend a lot of money on Arctic Frontiers as a Greenwashing exercise. This process is to soften people up and sell them the lie that somehow oil extraction is a nice, clean, non-harmful process that can only benefit mankind. They’ll continue greenwashing and schmoozing until they get the green light and then off they go. Do you think that they go to all this trouble and expense for a couple of barrels? No, of course not, they’ll be after many millions. And so, just as you say above, the 1.5 and 2 degree targets get missed. And should there be a little mishap like, say, Deepwater Horizon, well these things happen.
            You went on to make some points about population and industry but you seem to have a curiously short historical time frame in mind. If non-indigenous people have lived in the Arctic for a couple of centuries then this means that for many thousands of years previously they did not live in the Arctic. If mankind has been in the Industrial stage for about 250 years then it also survived and thrived without any Industry for well over 100,000 years. I am 50 years old and for about 40 years I did not own a laptop or a mobile phone. Clearly to be laptop-less is not a life threatening condition because I am still here.
            You insist on Industry and Environment but when it comes to the Arctic I insist on Industry or Environment. The three Industries sponsoring Arctic Frontiers were Oil, Maritime and Aquaculture. Farming Salmon may be sustainable but it’s a despicable business to see wild animals in cages so, personally, I refuse to eat the stuff. For the Maritime Industry you suggest a ship that does not emit CO2. Is this Nuclear?! Or sail? Or rowing? As for Oil I think we can agree that it can in no way be considered a clean, environment-friendly industry.
            Lastly population does not have to grow – for non-coercive population control/reduction see populationmatters.org.

  3. J Galt says:

    As classic an example of meaningless waffle one could not hope to better!

    1. Thanks – always good to have such positive comments

      1. J Galt says:

        Negative comments have their place as well!

        On the positive side there’s never a dull moment on your site – a must read most days. Thanks.

  4. RY says:

    Well done Bella: corporate speak for development (anti climate change) of a wilderness. Science does not support this, and you have produced no evidence for Scotland doing so. SHAME on you.

  5. Graeme. says:

    I am not sure about Global Warming. The Met Office in London says there has not been any for some twenty years, and there is no sign of any soon. But the Arctic is melting…could this be anything to do with the volcanoes below the Arctic Sea? I hear the Antarctic is freezing fast and is extending rapidly.
    Normally here in Edinburgh, for the last million years, we have a two mile deep Glacier passing over the land from West to East. That is why the Crags face West and the Leas face East and why the Pentland Hills are nicely rounded at the top.
    Right now we live in a brief Inter Glacial of a few thousand years; some say we are at the end of the current Inter Glacial.
    Apparently it is all to do with the Earth’s Orbit.

  6. Mathew says:

    Dear Bella – I’ve just done some research on Arctic Frontiers which organised the trip which resulted in the above article.
    One of their principle sponsors is the Oil & Gas giant Conoco Phillips. This is a Fortune 5oo company, based in Texas, which makes profits in the billions from oil and gas extraction.
    Another key sponsor is Norsk Oil & Gas – which acts on behalf of all the Norwegian companies working in the oil and gas sector.
    Other sponsors include companies who provide support services for the oil, gas, energy, maritime and aquaculture industries.
    I think it’s important for Bella’s editor, board and readers to have this information.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      For the Arctic – not to mention Scotland – is it not correct to aim for homeostasis – a sustainable balance of people and resources, so that both communities and natural habitats can flourish through the synergy of their interaction? The organising mechanism for such a project is Annual Ground Rent (AGR) see http://www.slrg.scot because it quashes speculation in resources by ‘rent-seekers’, some of whom you mention, whose activities pose an existential threat to both humanity and the arctic environment. The challenge, philosophically and sociologically, is to help people to understand that a simple, banal fiscal mechanism – one so easy to operate – can facilitate such a beautiful outcome.
      [paraphrased from thoughts of economist Fred Harrison]

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