Friday, June 27, 2014

Week 1

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 25, 2014.

by Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin

The first week of the course took place at KTH and the focus was on societal changes in the Arctic. We

followed a number of lectures focusing on the following topics:

The Arctic Region

Traditional Sami House
There is not a single way of defining the Arctic region. Different methods are used when it comes to defining what the Arctic is. These can be geographical, e.g. defining the Arctic as a region north of the Arctic Circle, climatological, e.g. the Arctic is then defined as an area north of a 10°C July isotherm, biological, e.g. tree line can be used to define the Arctic region (the Arctic starts where the trees are not capable of growing) and political, e.g. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP). No matter which definition is used the Arctic remains a large part of the Earth’s surface with an area of approx. 40 million square kilometers. There are 8 states that have their territories in the Arctic: Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. As of now there are 4 million people living in the Arctic, 10 % of which are indigenous people.

Governance in a Changing Arctic

Governance is part of the social structure that organizes society.  it is a collective effort of society to define and achieve social goals as a navigation device for addressing social challenges.  As institutions, there are jointly agrees norms, roles and procedures that guide behavior and expectations of each other.  Goals of governance include designating a homeland for indigenous people, opening lands of discovery and military arenas, and to create an environmental linchpin.  The Arctic Council is one such governing body aimed for these goals.  It is a soft law body consisting of 8 states with stake in the Arctic  including United States, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Finland. There is also UNCLOS which governs the law in Arctic waters.  Some factors that go into governing a changing Arctic include managing natural resources, ensuring ecosystem services, and guiding adaptation and transformation.

The Front Part of the Nordic
Museum in Stockholm
Sweden in the Arctic

Sweden has had a long history in the Arctic dating back to the 13th century.  The motives were to gain power through expansion and add taxation, increasing income.  Later the Arctic became an important location for the lucrative whaling business, and after that it became important for resources, scientific research and military defense.  Most of Sweden's income is still coming from lumber and mining from the northern part.  From the 18th century there has been increased curiosity in the science and natural phenomena, and has continued since then.  During the 19th century there was a large amount of scientific expeditions to the Arctic.

Sami in Sapmi

The Sapmi region is a transnational region spanning 4 countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Sapmi makes up 35% of Sweden’s land area.  Contrary to popular believe only 10% of the Sami make a living in Reindeer husbandry, and they are focused in Sami Villages.  Most Sami live modern ordinary lives.  The colonization of the Sapmi by the Swedish state began in the 12th century.  But there was relatively little interest in the North, instead concentrating east.  Beginning in the 13th century, the government looked north because of motives previously stated.

Study Visits

We visited the Nordic culture museum and the Skansen museum to look at the representation of the Sami today. An interesting fact is that in the museums that we have visited there hasn’t been much information about Sami people. The Nordic museum tried to show how the Sami culture evolves with the modern culture and they are not just Reindeer herder nomads.  The Skansen museum showed only the old Sami huts and a brief poster explaining the Sami are not all reindeer herders as well.


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