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A Green Arctic

12 Oct 2011

This vision presents a challenge. Local communities want economic growth, but the easiest ways of achieving that goal are not necessarily sustainable. The north needs a route for development that isn't based solely on resource extraction. Academic collaborations can help to achieve this, by promoting knowledge-based development, and by answering the research questions needed to support sustainable development.

The Arctic is home to a vast wealth of resources. Covering about 7% of the globe (the United States, in comparison, covers 2%), the Arctic has a disproportionately large share of oil and gas (the US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds 22% of the remaining undiscovered petroleum resources), and includes large swathes of rocks rich in minerals. Diamonds and nickel are plentiful; the waters churn with fish; and the region is bordered by the vast boreal forest belt, which holds one-third of global forests and perhaps 40% of economic forest resources.

Arctic states are promoting the development of natural resources — sometimes with the active support of local people, at other times against local wishes — to secure national economic growth, stable access to resources and job creation. Many indigenous people support development, with provisos. In early 2011, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference — the umbrella organization for Inuit peoples of the world — issued a declaration welcoming environmentally sound extraction of renewable and non-renewable resources as long as decisions are made locally and the economic benefit stays at home. A similar policy is already in effect in Greenland, actively promoting and welcoming oil and mineral exploration.

Unlike many of the world's conflict-ridden treasure troves — from the diamond-rich African nations to the Middle East's oil fields — the Arctic's resources are in the politically stable backyard of developed countries. But this does not eliminate concerns. Some non-Arctic states fear a future in which a sparsely populated north controls such a large portion of major resources that are in demand throughout the world.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Lars Kullerud

Year of publication: 2011

Publisher: Nature

Tags: Arctic

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