My work on the Arctic takes aim at two of our most dangerous Arctic fantasies. The first is the fantasy that the Arctic is a glittering treasure chamber, full of just about every kind of valuable natural resource, which should be exploited to the greatest profit. The second is the fantasy that the Arctic is a pristine wilderness, the vast but threatened kingdom of the polar bear, which should be preserved at all costs.
The Arctic is indeed a place of great wealth. It’s also a majestic and fragile environment. But the real Arctic is a society as well, a place where four million people live and work. Most especially, it’s a cherished homeland to the indigenous people who have lived there longer than anyone can remember—the Inuit, Saami, Gwitch’in, Dene, Yup’ik, Aleut, Chukchi, Sakha, Evenk, Nenets and others.
More than anyone else, Arctic indigenous peoples have forgone the profits and borne the costs of our single-minded pursuit of Arctic fantasies. Today, many of them have emerged from their colonial pasts as masters of their own land, with ancient rights and title now recognised in domestic and international law. The rest of us, however, still dream about either exploiting the Arctic or saving it, and the waking voice of the real Arctic struggles to be heard.
As for me—I’m a ‘southerner’ who went to live and work the Arctic years ago, full of his own fantasies about the place, but who was thankfully mugged by reality. I hope that the pages of this blog can help explain to my fellow southerners something of what I learned. I don’t speak for Arctic indigenous peoples, and I would never pretend to. But I hope I can speak about them and about the real Arctic—and help to show up our dangerous fantasies for what they are.
About the author
Anthony Speca is founder and manager of Polar Aspect, a consultancy focused on Arctic public policy and governance. From 2008 to 2011, he lived and worked in the Canadian Arctic as a senior policy official with the Government of Nunavut, and he continues to publish and speak on a range of Arctic issues.
Anthony is also founder and director of NORMAC and MAC Bilbao, the world’s only secondary-school Model Arctic Council conferences. By playing the roles of delegates to the Arctic Council, pupils participating in these unique experiential learning programmes learn about the Arctic, its peoples and its challenges, and develop their skills in public speaking, negotiating and consensus building.
In addition to his Arctic-related work, Anthony teaches Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Norwich School, one of the UK’s top independent coeducational day schools. Outside class, he oversees the school’s extension programme for pupils applying to Oxford and Cambridge, and he supervises Model UN and other youth diplomacy.
Whether in the Arctic or “down South”, Anthony is a keen photographer. For more, see his online portfolio, Chasing Polaris.