The Arctic – a region of abundance
Arctic issues are the current focus of much public debate. Many people are concerned with climate issues as well as with economic and political issues – but very few of us have actually visited the area commonly referred to as the Arctic. So what is it like, doing research in the Arctic? Lars Kullerud, who has travelled extensively throughout the Arctic region, offered the audience at Exhibition Stage in the TAP 1 venue a glimpse of the realities faced by Arctic residents.
Locals know best
Dr Kullerud’s main point was that those who actually live in the Arctic should be allowed to determine the direction of the region’s development. Should natural resources be protected and preserved, or should industry be allowed to move in and alter the economic and physical landscape? From Dr Kullerud’s standpoint, we should ask the people who live there:
- When people get access to the Internet, children begin to play mobile-phone games just like everyone else, and people naturally start shopping online. This drives the local shop out of business, and locals no longer meet each other there. On the other hand, they are able to Skype with people at the other end of the world. Is that good or bad? It is not my place to answer for them.
- This is why it is essential for the people to get an education, and for some of them to stay in their home areas and use their knowledge locally, creating new jobs and opportunities. The University of the Arctic is working to achieve precisely this, as well as to spread knowledge about Arctic issues to the rest of the world. Because when making important decisions, people tend to trust someone they know, asserted Dr Kullerud.
Dial up the curiosity
The Arctic region is enormous and extends across the northern part of the world. The various areas within it differ from one another, but what they all have in common in general is that population is sparse across vast expanses of land with a wealth of natural resources. Dr Kullerud pointed out that the Arctic is indeed a region of abundance, with people who boast competencies in areas such as design and dance as well as technology and tourism.
When it comes to the most important research issues in the Arctic, Dr Kullerud said:
- Climate issues are not as worrisome to the people of the Arctic as are issues regarding health, job opportunities, fisheries, transport, mining and tourism. For example, the Arctic provides food for the rest of the world through its fisheries – yet those who live there do not get enough out of the deal. Equally understandable is that people are very concerned about the lack of infrastructure that prevents them from getting around. When we researchers come to the Arctic, we would do well to ask locals for advice, because they often pose different questions than we would.
One audience member wondered about research activities in the Arctic, and whether researchers are seen as intrusive. Dr Kullerud’s clear position and advice was to think of oneself as a kind of advanced tourist, who meets the locals with curiosity and respect and – if possible – comes back to present them with the findings from the research.
- Dial up the curiosity, and show respect for the local population’s curiosity and skills, concluded Dr Kullerud.
Text: Linn Hoff Jensen
Photo: Terje Heiestad