Sunday, August 7, 2016

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Field Notes: July 4th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew

This article and the images originally appeared on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic blog.

There you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.

July 4th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew


This morning we woke up and went to the town of Malmberget which can be seen across the valley from our cabins. Malmberget originally began as a classic mining shanty town and is still built around the mining industry. Tragically now it is being destroyed by the mine itself. This town of a couple thousand began to develop a large sinkhole in the 1960s and LKAB has bought part of the town and homes in the affected areas.

The entire town will no longer exist within the next 20 years. We walked around a neighborhood close to the deformation zone where it was incredibly run down. Mixed among the remaining homes were the ghostly remains of walls and gardens outlining the areas of houses that have already been removed. Looking through the fence you could see the giant hole a block or two away where the ground is collapsing. It was impossible not to wonder when it would expand and consume the land that you were currently walking on. Afterwards we headed over to the old sports hall where there was an exhibit showing Malmberget’s history. The display housed different pictures from community events such as dances, concerts, and pageants and also old class photos from the 1960s and 1970s of the local school. These images depicted Malmbergert in happier times before its slow destruction. In the gym was a large photo display of houses throughout the town from different years and old mining photos. A large model of the town helped display the layout of Malmberget. Finally we went to a historical recreation of the original shanty town where people were selling goods from the old buildings and homes. The shanty town is one of the few things in Malmberget that will be preserved and moved.

After lunch, an hour and a half drive led us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Laponian Area”. At the Naturum Laponia Visitor Centre, a guide showed us the exhibit and explained why a 9400 km^2 large area in North Sweden was designed as a World Heritage Site in 1996.

Laponian area is one of the 32 World Heritage Sites whose selection was based on the combination of unique natural and cultural values. This site contains exceptional natural beauty and it has been occupied by the Sami people for over 2000 years since the transhumance of reindeer herding. However, the exploitation of natural resources, which started in the early 20th century in Norbotten County, has posed several obstacles to the reindeer herding and to other activities which are impressed in the culture and in the history of the Sami communities living in the area. One of the most severe obstacles is represented by the numerous dams and their connected infrastructures, i.e. power lines and roads, which are used to regulate the water level in the Lule River for the production of electric power. 25% of the Swedish hydropower comes from the Lule River which was originally a basin composed of 7 lakes and alpine streams and is now transformed into a huge lake.

On the way back to our cabins we had to slow down and stop many times in order to herd lots of reindeer off of the road.

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