Saturday, July 18, 2015

The First Week at KTH; 3-5 June

This series of posts shares field notes from the study abroad course "Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic." The course begins at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and then students from the University of Illinois and KTH travel north to conduct research in the Arctic. This blog was originally posted on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic webpage.

by Lucia Dunderman and David Seith

This week was the start of our integrated study program, Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic. Our first day of lectures on Wednesday was an introduction to the program, class, and professors involved with our lectures and in the Arctic trip. The afternoon lecture included a more in depth look at the lecture schedule, along with what our class will specifically do in the Arctic region of Sweden. We also had the chance to be introduced to our essay and blog assignments for the class.

On Thursday was our first full day of lectures. This day was focused on the human geography in a historical perspective in the Arctic and Norrland region. These lectures were lead by Dag Avango, one of the principle professors in the program. The lectures focused on how humans first came to the Arctic and the Norrland regions and how they survived. From these lectures we learned about how these early human societies in the Arctic prospered, or failed, and how they changed over time. This lecture looked at different historical perspectives of Arctic history, specifically a traditional, processual, and post-processual theoretical take on the perspectives. Seeing how different eras viewed Arctic history, such as in a diffusion of ideas, migration, environmental deterministic, and cultural way, enabled us to better understand how the Arctic came to be, but also how to interpret data from archeologists and historians.

Projected changes in the Arctic climate
On Friday, we had the honor of listening to the Tarfala Research Station director, Gunhild Rosqvist, a professor from Stockholm University. She gave a lecture to our class which discussed the Arctic climate and environment. She gave a background about different climatic changes the Arctic has faced throughout the years since the ice age, and how humans recently have been impacting this climate. She also tied in how humans have affected the Arctic by focusing on changes in the environment, urbanization of the Arctic, the ecology, and the indigenous people who have lived in these areas for thousands of years.

Furthermore, she went into detail about the political involvement surrounding the Arctic in a national and international scope. A major topic were recent reports about the Arctic, such as the ACIA (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment) and SWIPA (Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic), along with the committees involved with these reports; Arctic Council, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, International Arctic Science Committee, and Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. We learned how these committees have provided research to this region and how they are trying to change policies to aid the Arctic.

Finally, she focused on the Sami people who have lived in Northern Scandanavia for thousands of years. Their culture and homes are being affected by not only the climate, but also the mining community who are interfering with reindeer herding and the environment. We were able to take away a different look at the Arctic and what needs to be done on a political scale thanks to Professor Rosqvist.


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