Arctic Futures

[Cover_Arctic] Image: Ray Bartkus

Imagine the Arctic in 2050 as a frigid version of Nevada—an empty landscape dotted with gleaming boom towns. Gas pipelines fan across the tundra, fueling fast-growing cities to the south like Calgary and Moscow, the coveted destinations for millions of global immigrants. It’s a busy web for global commerce, as the world’s ships advance each summer as the seasonal sea ice retreats, or even briefly disappears.

Much of the planet’s northern quarter of latitude, including the Arctic, is poised to undergo tremendous transformation over the next century. As a booming population increases the demand for the Earth’s natural resources, and as lands closer to the equator face the prospect of rising water demand, droughts and other likely changes, the prominence of northern countries will rise along with their projected milder winters.

The WSJ describes the race North to capture newly accessible resources, in an excerpt from Laurence C. Smith’s book The World in 2050.

Marine conservation area boundary proposal is based on Inuit oral history

Now, in a bid to assert Inuit interests in protecting Lancaster Sound as both a species-rich ecosystem and as an important hunting resource, a group representing several Baffin-area communities — in collaboration with federal archivists and the Montreal-based environmental consultancy Strata360 — have converted mountains of recordings, interview transcripts, hand-drawn maps and other documents into a set of proposed boundaries for the marine park.

The information, gathered by university researchers from Inuit hunters and elders in 1972 and 1973, was collected partly to ensure the accumulated wisdom of a people would not be lost amid wrenching social changes then unfolding in the North.

My old prof, cultural geographer Bernard Nietschmann would be proud.