Arctic News Roundup: 18-24 January

Reindeer in Åre, Sweden [Photo by Marcus Löfvenberg via UnSplash]

by Mingming Shi

1) Condé Nast Traveler published a feature on Iceland, describing how the country is hoping to update its tourism sector to offer more opportunities for outdoor adventures. Despite losses in 2020, tourism remains a key part of the Icelandic economy, and the government is seeking to encourage visitors to see more the the country, and as of November last year has also set up a remote working programme for foreign nationals.

2) Sámi reindeer herders in northern Norway are taking legal action against the proposed Øyfjellet wind farm project in Nordland, claiming that the facilities, once completed, would adversely affect traditional reindeer migration patterns. As The Guardian reports, Sámi representatives are dissatisfied with the assurances given by the project backers that the wind turbines could exist alongside reindeer populations, with no disruption to the latter.

3) The United States has continued to engage Greenland with new joint project proposals. It was announced in the High North News that the US State Department had tapped the University of Alaska – Fairbanks to take the lead on two projects, worth a combined US$3 million, to develop onsite mining training in Greenland, and to assist with the University of Greenland’s educational and vocational programmes in the areas of fisheries and hospitality / tourism. Despite the widespread negative responses to a failed bid by the US government in 2019 to buy Greenland outright from Denmark, Washington has been committed to developing stronger economic links with the island.

4) According to the Icelandic news service RÚV, a new report [in Icelandic], entitled ‘Greenland and Iceland in the New Arctic’ [pdf], has been submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland. This detailed document provides recommendations, based on the mutual interests for both Iceland and Greenland, to improve cooperation in the fishing industry, tourism and other economic sectors, as well as outlining the challenges to closer ties, such as balancing the relationships of the two states with other powers in the high north region.

5) As the High North News reported, a group of Japanese scientists with the Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS) project have launched a board game on the themes of environmental, social and political change in the Arctic. According to the designers, the game is created to promote the knowledge of the circumpolar north for high school students, with the assistance of their teachers and other researchers. However, according to the designers, further improvements, such as more comprehensive instructions, need to be made before the game is ready for sale to the public.

6) Science Focus released a series of photographs from the recently-completed MOSAiC expedition, a research mission in the Arctic Ocean which traveled all the way to the North Pole. The photos feature the work of the team members, and even a visit from local polar bears.

7) The Barents Observer revealed that a few hundred protesters flocked to a march in the Russian Arctic city of Murmansk in support of recently-jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny and against the government of President Vladimir Putin. Similar protests have taken place in Moscow and several other Russian cities.

8) A number of bridges for reindeer have been planned for construction in Northern Sweden near the city of Umeå, according to The Guardian. These special bridges would be placed over normal railways and roads, allowing for safe passage, and are referred to as ‘renoducts’ (viaducts for reindeer). Due to climate change, many reindeer in the region have been prompted to travel beyond their usual grounds for grazing.