Arctic News Roundup: 24 February-1 March

[Photo by Marc Lanteigne]
by Mingming Shi

1) An interview on the topic of new Russian weapons systems, and how they would affect Norwegian and Arctic security, was published on the High North News. Two researchers interviewed for the piece were Dr Paal Sigurd Hilde, an Associate Professor at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) in Oslo, and Dr Rob Huebert, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary and a senior research fellow with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies.

Dr Hilde argued that these weapons developments would not create considerable threats to the security of Norway and the greater far north region. Dr Huebert cautioned however that Canada and the US needed to pay more attention to Russian military hardware in the Arctic, including hypersonic vehicles.

2) In the middle of February, Marc Lanteigne, Chief Editor of Over the Circle, made a research trip to Estonia and wrote on his observations and comments about the ambition of the country to become part of the Arctic Council as an observer government. Estonia, a Baltic country with a shared border with Russia, regained its independence from the then-Soviet Union in 1991.

3) A group of scientists warned about the distinct ecosystem changes in the Bering and Chukchi Seas due to the local warmer conditions, based on their studies and research in the region, according to a story in Eye on the Arctic, a Canadian regional news service.

4) Caribou hunting on Baffin Island has been terminated by the Government of Nunavut for the period of 2019-20, due to the quota being reached, according to Canada’s CBC News.

5) An article in the Huffington Post outlines 25 frequent mistakes made by tourists visiting Iceland. The country, an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the edge of the Arctic Circle, has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years with its unique landscapes such as glaciers, moss fields and volcano craters. While experiencing the economic boost from flocks of foreign guests, however, Iceland has also had to address environmental and cultural challenges, including visitor misbehaviour.

6) Jenifer Nelson, the Senior Manager at General Communication Inc. in Alaska, shared her stories as an indigenous person seeking to educate the public about regional indigenous issues, including greater involvement in Arctic policymaking. She wrote her comments via The Arctic Institute.

7) KNR, the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, reported on the achievement of the reduction of dropout rates among Greenlandic students at the Galtrup Efterskole boarding school in Denmark. The approaches to this success included educating students from Greenland in both Greenlandic and Danish, in order to create a more relaxing atmosphere and to help Greenlandic students better adjust themselves to the environment.

8) The first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus was confirmed in Iceland this week, and the patient is a male in his fifties who visited Northern Italy, but not the defined risk zone of the virus, according to RÚV, the Icelandic Broadcasting Service.

Both President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir have issued statements on Facebook in order to ease any possible public concerns, and to encourage citizens to follow the instructions by the National Directorate of Health (Embætti Landlæknis in Icelandic). With the virus infection diagnosed in Iceland, Efling, an Icelandic trade union which has been recently on strike action, has granted City of Reykjavík a short-term exemption to assist the emergency situation. So far, there are three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iceland.

9) This week, Sermitsiaq, a Greenlandic news service, reported a story of Malaysian business tycoon Vincent Tan’s wish to construct a high end hotel and ninety apartments in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Mr Tan is the chair and owner of Berjaya Corporation Berhad, a Malaysia-based company with multiple business interests, covering catering, lottery, property investment, and related areas. This is not the first attempt by the corporation to develop projects in Greenland; indeed, a previous plan to build a hotel at the Colony Harbour area in Nuuk failed last year.

10) In February, OtC presented four pieces of news roundup in total. Among the significant news, readers may have seen the striking unexpected incidents caused by COVID-19 in the Arctic, including the regional conference in Tokyo which was supposed to take place during the writing, and your reading, of this piece. What all of us may have learned from this month of news includes, but is not limited to, the fact that the world we are inhabiting is more intertwined than what we have imagined, and nobody is entirely separate from his and her counterparts thousands of miles away, including in the far north. As well, Mingming and Marc would like to thank our audience for their support and readership.