A follow-up on Monday's topic. The question of who owns the Arctic, of who should be involved in its stewardship, has come up repeatedly during this conference. And, as one of today's speakers pointed out, there’s no real consensus on a) where the Arctic is geographically, or b) who exactly has a stake in the Arctic. That makes answering questions about stewardship even harder to answer, especially as the Arctic has resources serving people and places that are nowhere near it.
So, on the most basic level, is the Arctic more global - a public good? Or is it more local - meant for a specified few?
At the big end of the scale, it's a place that helps meet global resource needs, a venue for new shipping lanes and a laboratory for international science. It serves as a point of both international tension and cooperation between multiple nations. It's an indicator of climate change. It's home to local cultures that are part of a bigger human narrative, as to lose the traditions and cultures found here would be to lose something of significance to our history.
But it's also the homeland for indigenous peoples, whose lives are intertwined with the Arctic's future, and a part of many countries' national identity. It's a specific ecosystem upon which a tremendous number of Arctic species are dependent. And it's a site for national investment and development, an opportunity for economic growth in those nations that border it.
Our speaker didn't take one side or the other but much of the discussion I've heard at the conference revolves around how the Arctic is perceived - global or local?
As has been well-documented here, there's a lot of money to be made in economic and natural resource development. Those countries who border the Arctic stand to make big gains and are well into decades-old negotiations and treaties on how to carve up this area. But, further afield, countries like India and China no doubt expect to benefit from the opening of new shipping routes - India is already in the process of building an icebreaker in anticipation.
From a climate change perspective, not only is the Arctic an indicator of what's happening as the planet warms, but what happens in the Arctic could have global implications, from rising seas to changes in weather patterns to permanently altered marine ecosystems. Cities, crop yields, fish stocks - these are just a few of the issues that may be affected.
There are no answers, but there are a lot of people, nations and multinational corporations jockeying for position. A complex area of the world already, answering the question of who owns the Arctic is only going to get more complicated.