Monday, March 22, 2021,
a Zoom Webinar*
When we were young, back in the middle of the last century, the Arctic was a place of mystery and ice, the province of heroic explorers, polar bears, and people we called “Eskimos,” who lived in snow houses and herded reindeer. Today, so much of the polar ice cap has already melted that cruise ships can travel through it in summer, commercial ships can make their way nearly year-round not only through the fabled “Northwest Passage” but a second route on the other side of the Pole, the polar bears are disappearing, and the peoples who live there (in houses much like ours) fear for their cultural and economic future.
In this third of the 2021 “Great Decisions” based on a video and text material from the Foreign Policy Association, we are invited to consider the long-range international implications of this historic change. Some of the topics to be covered include the behavior of the eight traditional “Arctic Nations”— the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark (through Greenland), Canada, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland—as well as the aspirations of other powerful countries, notably China, to “own” a share of the Arctic and influence policies relating to commercial shipping, fisheries, petroleum and minerals extraction, and the voices and livelihood of the native peoples. For a long time, after the military threats of the Cold War subsided, the US preferred not to invest the vast resources needed to create and maintain business and (to an extent) security infrastructure in the Arctic, but now, in response to such investments by others, will we find it necessary to divert large amounts of money to protect our interests?
AV resident Suzanne Ferguson has been fascinated by the far north since childhood. She taught Native American literature at several universities and sees the Arctic as the last frontier for North American indigenous peoples and the animals among whom they have lived for centuries.