arctic futures 2016, bruxelles

Stirling University and the SGSAH supported me to attend Arctic Futures 2016.

This annual conference bring together the European Institutions with interested organisations and persons from the wider international community to hear and talk about scientific, political and social developments in the Arctic.

Whilst the focus was on sustainable communities, this was seen through the changes happening in Arctic – environmentally, geopolitically and socially. As the ice melts, new waterways are opening up allowing greater access to natural resources. The regions unresolved territorial disputes and increased military activity means interests in the Arctic have becomes even more strategic.

Prone to alarmist headlines, we the flicking and clicking tend to feel a sense of calamity. Yet amongst the speakers from the Arctic countries there was a poise. In talking about the mineral exploration in Greenland and the desire to see the sealskin ban lifted in the EU, Vittus Qujaukitsoq,the Minister of Foreign affairs was very clear about seeing a way through the challenges and realising the ambitions of the people of Greenland. “We don’t want to develop to get rich in material terms but so we can take care of ourselves and our people.” 

Mika Riipi, the Governor of Lapland, perhaps the most poetic local government politician I have even heard, expressed his hope for the future: “snow to stay in the Arctic and to stay white… Peace is a precious thing.”

20161130_113315I am an uncomfortable conference goer who ends up hanging around the coffee station drinking cup after cup. But I made a supreme effort to speak to people and met some fascinating folk. One of them was Rosa Thorisdottir who works for the Stefansson Polar Institute. A visual anthropologist, her PhD was on the work of the French cultural anthropologist Jean Malaurie and the return of the ethnographic documents – the moving images he filmed – to the communities in them. Thank you, Rosa, daughter of Thor, for sharpening my focus on another ethical dimension of Arctic filmmaking.

(The image is of Rosa’s beautiful Icelandic yoke, knitted by her mother.)

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