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 an independent advisor on public policy and strategy, with a special focus on the Arctic. Through his consultancy, Polar Aspect, he advises on public policy and government strategy in the Canadian and circumpolar North. From 2008 to 2011, he was a senior policy official with the Government of Nunavut, Canada’s Arctic territory.
Anthony also writes and speaks regularly on the Arctic. His articles and commentaries have appeared in The Arctic Journal, Arctic Yearbook, Policy Options, Northern Public Affairs, Nunatsiaq News and the Winnipeg Free Press. He has been invited to speak at various institutions, amongst them the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Akureyri and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Whether in the Arctic or “down South”, Anthony is a keen photographer. For more, see his online portfolio, Chasing Polaris.