ID:29 Arctic sustainability transformation

22 February 2023 | 10:30 - 12:30 (GMT+1)

Open Session - HYBRID


Room: Hörsaal 2


Session Conveners: Janina Priebe (Umeå University, Sweden); Hanna Lempinen (University of Lapland, Finland); Hanna Vikström (Luleå University of Technology, Sweden)


Session Description:

With the recent global efforts to ‘transform our world’ (UN 2015), external discourses portray the Arctic as an enabler of global sustainability transformation through renewable energy and associated industries for sustainable material and fuels, such as forest-based and mineral resources, and carbon capture and storage technologies for lowering global emissions. These visions are commonly tied to the rural Arctic, and to regions at the outskirts of Arctic urban centers. Who imagines, articulates and shapes visions of Arctic sustainability transformation, and how do these visions materialize? The concept of sustainability transformation aims at shared meaning to initiate joint action. Its meaning, however, is ambiguous when placed in contexts. This divergence is even more pronounced because it morphs into a conglomeration of future anticipations and assumptions made in the present. It is crucial to understand how the notion of a transformation, i.e. the idea of an urgent, profound, and gradual or rapid shift at a global level will impact and interact with Arctic contexts, particularly regions that are re-imagined for future global sustainability. Depending on the notion of transformation, different means are rendered viable to enable and comply with global sustainability efforts. This session welcomes presentations that explore notions of sustainability transformation in all geographical areas of the circumpolar Arctic from social science and humanities’ perspectives. The session’s ambition is to bring different perspectives on Arctic sustainability transformation together, including local stakeholders’ and Indigenous visions of sustainability, corporate and state narratives, and other actors who create and shape the Arctic as a place of sustainability transformation. The ambition of this session is to give ample opportunity for discussion with the audience, and to reflect on the commonalities and differences in how Arctic sustainability transformations are portrayed.



  • unfold_moreIs sustainability an adequate framework to protect the Arctic in the Anthropocene?

    Ana Manero-Salvador
    University Carlos III of Madrid


    Few spaces on earth today present such a discouraging scenario regarding their environmental situation as is the case of the Arctic region. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted in its 2019 special report that over the past two decades, the Arctic surface air temperature has increased more than twice the global average, while at the same time a significant increase in greenhouse gases is observed, leading to increase a further warming of the Arctic. This situation undoubtedly facilitates the exploration and exploitation of Arctic resources, which increases the already extreme fragility of the already very deteriorated Arctic ecosystem. In this critical context, the debate about sustainable development of the Arctic has entered. Sustainability is now understood in the framework of 2030 Agenda, however, none of the Agenda goals refers to the Arctic issue in particular, although different goals and targets are applicable and recognizable in the Arctic -i.e. SDG13, 17 and 7-. Given this undoubtedly complex situation, it is imperative to analyze how sustainability can have an impact on the Arctic. As we are in a highly vulnerable ecosystem, would it be appropriate to consider the preservation of this space, is it possible to do so, and in what way can the promotion of sustainable development have a negative impact on the environmental protection of the Arctic?

  • unfold_moreLocal indicators of climate change in Northwest Greenland

    Leneisja Jungsberg


    Indigenous people living in communities in Northwest Greenland experience changes as part of their everyday life through their interactions with the local natural environment while e.g., engaging in subsistence activities. The aim of this study is to determine local indicators of climate change based on first hand observations. The study is based on data collected through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and a community survey focusing on perceived indicators of climate change on physical, biological, and socio-economic systems. Results show that community observations are a great source of information to understand local climate change. In total 15 local indicators of climate change were collected. Indigenous community members apply different strategies to address the observed physical, biological, and socio-economic changes. This study contributes with first-hand observations of changes in local weather, permafrost and climatic variability as well as changes in local social-ecological systems which are attributed to climate change. All observations are grounded in the indigenous people’s interaction with their local environment and the analysis apply the concept of transformation to emphasize the role of human agency in deliberately addressing the critical changes the people in Northwest Greenland experience. In the concluding discussion questions around adaptation capability, cultural heritage and socio-economic change are important perspectives emerging from this research.

  • unfold_moreSustainability transformation and transport infrastructures in Northern Manitoba, Canada

    Philipp Budka
    University of Vienna


    This paper explores from an anthropological perspective how infrastructural entanglements relate to sustainability transformation of/in the town of Churchill in Northern Manitoba, Canada. Situated at the junction of the boreal forest, the Arctic tundra, and the Hudson Bay, the community of 870 people has become well-known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”. But Churchill is also unique in terms of transport infrastructures. Whereas the town is not accessible via roads, it is home of Canada’s only deep-water port on the Arctic Ocean. This port is the only harbor in the American (Sub)Arctic with a direct link to the North American railway system. And due to former military presence, the town also has a relatively big airport, which has become key for the growing tourism industry. Churchill only exists because of these transport infrastructures and it has been changing together with this built environment. Only recently and in the light of geopolitical developments, the federal and the provincial governments agreed to invest up to CA$ 133 million to upgrade the Hudson Bay Railway and the port of Churchill. By discussing ethnographic findings, this paper focuses on the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining and transforming the community. At the same time, it critically reflects upon the very notion of sustainability (transformation) from an anthropological and cross-cultural angle. This study is one of several case studies in the ERC project InfraNorth, which looks into the affordances of transport infrastructures on a pan-Arctic scale.

  • unfold_moreThe role of ecosystem services in the doughnut economy – the example of whale ecosystem services in Disko Bay, Greenland

    David Cook1; Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir1; Laura Malinauskaite1
    1University of Iceland


    The doughnut economy framework has been increasingly advocated by academics, governance institutions and policy-makers as a tool for delivering economies that fulfil the social needs of all people, are safe and socially just, and respect planetary boundaries. Thus far, the role of ecosystem services (ES) in contributing to the doughnut economy’s ambitions has been underexplored. This is surprising considering the wealth of ES literature addressing the theoretical components of ‘a good life’ and relationships between social-ecological systems, resource use and human well-being. Two contributions to the literature are made by this study: (1) a generalised model is outlined linking natural capital to ES to the planetary boundaries and social floors of the doughnut economy’s framework, and (2) an illustrative qualitative case study of whale ES in Disko Bay, Greenland is provided to demonstrate linkages between ES and the doughnut economy’s fulfilment. The findings are based on 20 interviews with representative stakeholders in August 2019 and observational data gathered by the researchers. Although the case study is a simplification of complexity, it nevertheless reveals several of the key contributions made by whale ES to a mixed economy, especially reduced pressure on the ecological ceilings linked to biodiversity loss and climate change, and a positive contribution to the social floors of food, health, income and work, and social equity. The case study stimulates a discussion that reflects on the limited recognition of the role of cultural ES in the doughnut economy’s conceptualisation, trade-offs evident between the social floors, and multi-level governance challenges in operationalising the doughnut economy.

  • unfold_moreSustainability and cooperation in the North American Arctic

    Anna Soer1; Mathieu Landriault2; Jean-François Savard2
    1University of Ottawa; 2ENAP


    Sustainable policies in the Arctic region are dependent on a complex set of global, national and local dynamics and power relations. On the one hand, global campaigns promoting sustainability may not be adapted to local interests and needs. On the other hand, national governments of Arctic states have ample resources, but Northern communities suffer from chronic underfunding of infrastructures and services. In the context of a larger research project on North American Arctic cooperation and the establishment of a regional forum, our findings have shown strong interest in the development of stronger environmental and marine protection ties in the region between Canada (Nunavut and Québec) and Greenland. This communication will focus on how local and national decision-makers are perceiving cooperation on environmental protection in the Eastern part of the North American Arctic. Through a set of interviews with national and local decision-makers, our findings point towards the desire by local actors to further cooperation on sustainability but also how local stakeholders portray limitations to sustainable practices.

  • unfold_moreOn the Negative Capability of Arctic Learning Organizations: Balancing Demand and Uncertainty in Coproduction for Sustainability

    Blair, Berill1; Lovecraft, Amy2
    1SKEMA Business School; 2University of Alaska Fairbanks


    As 21st century challenges extend across spatial and temporal scales and create politically contentious issues, the notion of governance fit has permeated the literature on institutional and organizational learning. Climate change adaptation and sustainability scholarship has emphasized coproduction as a management approach that is especially well-suited to increase the fit of policy and technological innovations with a system’s social-environmental identity to produce robust solutions to wicked problems. This has led to a proliferation of coproduction efforts in sustainability innovation projects. Coproduction however is highly demanding on resources and it is not a one-size fits all approach to deal with complexity. Equally important when confronting wicked problems are clumsy solutions and the negative capability of organizations; the ability to adapt to not knowing and non-action under uncertainty. This article links dimensions of coproduced research (such as uncertainties in problem definition and demand for innovation) to the structure of change leadership (such as ad-hoc versus institutionalized stakeholder engagement) relying on the authors’ cumulative experience from multipleinterdisciplinary coproduction modeling projects that evaluated uncertainties in Arctic social-environmental systems. It applies a wicked problems and learning organizations lens to examine the role of negative capability in Arctic actors’ ability to both invest in, and extract value from, participatory innovation. We propose a typology of coproduction landscape that addresses three grand challenges of innovation and offer insights on participatory tools that can be mobilized to build negative capability for positive change.

  • unfold_moreNew option for tourism development in The Kola Subarctic. Dark sky park in Teriberka as a chance for socioeconomic revival of the settlement. Primary assessment of touristic resources in Teriberka at the Barents Sea coast

    Alina Akhtiamova


    Last few years there is a sustainable and intensive growth of artificial night lighting which has not investigated the consequences enough. It has substantial effects on that part of population living in urban areas and stimulating diseases. Also species in the wild and generally ecosystems are felt inauspicious impact of artificial night lighting. Now ecotourism develops all over the world and gets more popular due to the increasing urbanization and changes in the natural environment. New option for ecotourism development is an astronomical tourism supposing visiting dark sky parks as ares use the night sky as its main source of attraction. Many regions of Russia are supposed to be potentially favorable for the development of astronomical tourism such as the European North of Russia, the Northern and Polar Urals and etc. Creaiting of dark sky park in The Kola Subarctic will be a chance for socio economic revival of the settlement. Last few years Teriberka has become more popular tourist destination in Murmansk region related with features of the characteristics its recreational system. Teriberka possesses a complex of natural and socio-cultural characteristics forming its touristic resources providing opportunities to observe attractors both in the afternoon and in the night.

  • unfold_more“More of everything” – Room for Indigenous rights in the green transition?

    Christina Allard
    Lulea University of Technology


    With the green transition, the Arctic face a situation with “more of everything” – intensified green energy production, new green industries (e.g. carbon-free steel production, biofuel), extraction of critical metals and minerals for batteries, solar cells, electricity networks. In EU, for instance, we consume about a quarter of the world's raw materials but produce only three percent. The sense of urgency within EU means to speed up sustainability transitions, and EU has indicated a need for fast-tracking the permitting processes of “green” industries, which imply to cut corners. This is one side of the story. Another narrative is the Indigenous peoples living in the Arctic, where national and international laws protect their traditional lands and resource rights, their cultures, and traditions. In the Scandinavian Arctic, where Indigenous Sami is carrying out reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing, intractable land use conflicts already exist. “More of everything” has already intensified these conflicts. Recognising Indigenous rights is paramount for securing human rights. Some even comment present-day as “green colonialism”, causing a new wave of marginalisation and disrespect of Indigenous communities. Indeed, there is a risk of repeating bad behaviour, and we needed to pay attention to the Indigenous rights, which the Fosen case in Norway attest to. The Norwegian Supreme Court held that the large wind park was violating the right to culture for affected Sami reindeer herders (Art. 27, ICCPR). In a nutshell, most agree that sustainability transformation is necessary, but does that imply at any means necessary or at any costs?