Assessing Arctic Futures: Voices, Resources, and Governance

– a project within Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context

The Arctic is one of the world’s hotspots in terms of impacts from global change where the rapid decline in sea ice provides a dramatic preview of a post-global warming Arctic geography. The changes have led to speculations about new opportunities for mineral and energy prospecting and new shipping opportunities but also voices warning about the loss of iconic wildlife and major ecosystem functions. Although climate change is often seen as the hegemonic driver of change in the Arctic, commercial and political interests from a large range of actors are equally important.

Visions for Arctic futures have a long history. Descriptions of the future of the Arctic – often enthusiastic but at times foreboding – were formulated during the entire 20th century. The questions raised in this project explore the actors behind these descriptions – in the past and present – as well as the political, economic, scientific and ideological contexts in which different voices were hard.

We are interested in the multitude of voices in the continuous production of Arctic futures. Whose interest had the most influence during different historical periods, and what can different actors mean by “positive” development in the Arctic? What were the processes by which certain voices were heard and others not? And what can we learn from that in looking at the production of Arctic futures today? By trying to apply methods from for example technology assessment we hope to develop tools with which proposed Arctic futures can be assessed beforehand and thereby offering the decision makers a more comprehensive understanding of the consequences of paths to be taken.

SEI’s involvement in the project is focused on developing new conceptual tools for understanding the dynamics of international regional collaboration in times of rapid environmental and social change. It includes identifying recurring motives in the production of Arctic futures and the leverage, or power, of different actors in narrating the Arctic landscape. The purpose is to gain an understanding of how changes in the actor networks relate to the structure of the international space and how they together influence the conditions for international cooperation.

Assessing Arctic Futures is a collaboration between the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, the European University at St. Petersburg and the Stockholm Environment Institute. It is led by the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology.

Mistra Arctic Futures in a Global Context programme website»

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