Arctic News Roundup: 21-27 March

Kangerlussuaq Airport in western Greenland [Photo by Grete Howard via Wikimedia Commons]

by Mingming Shi

1) Norway’s High North News published an op-ed on the need for the international community to take stronger action in curtailing fossil fuels, given the disruption in supplies caused by the Russo-Ukraine conflict but also the ongoing detrimental effects in the Arctic of burning fossil fuels. Noting the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the editorial pointed specifically to the need for vessels in the Arctic to use improved fuels to reduce black carbon emissions. As well, the comment pointed to the need to switch out heavy fuel oils on Arctic ships in favour of more environmentally friendly distillate fuels.

2) The Europe Desk, overseen by the BMW Centre for German and European Studies at Georgetown University, conducted an interview with Kenneth Høegh, Head of Representation at the Greenland Representation in Washington DC, on the role of Greenland in global affairs. The conversation, posted on Spotify, featured discussion of Greenland’s past, traced back to ancient times, and also included historical relations with its Nordic neighbours, the work of Greenland in the Arctic Council, ties with Denmark, and trade with other parts of the world, including growing numbers of seafood exports to East Asia.

3) The travel news site Skift published an article on the challenges facing Greenlandic tourism (mainly due to inadequate facilities and infrastructure), and they can be addressed in the future, via the perspective of balance of encouraging visitors while also protecting local environments. Iceland’s tourism boom over the past decade has also been carefully studied by planners in Greenland.

4) This month, the Government of India released its long-anticipated Arctic policy paper, entitled ‘India’s Arctic Policy: Building A Partnership for Sustainable Development‘. This document highlights the importance of the high north for the country, the ongoing relationship between India and the Arctic, and New Delhi’s strategies based on six pillars, which includes strengthening scientific diplomacy, environmental protection, human development, connectivity, international cooperation and capacity-building. India became a formal observer in the Arctic Council in 2013, and despite being located far from the Polar Regions has nonetheless sought to improve its diplomatic and economic position in the Arctic.

Arctic News Roundup: 14-20 March

Ice in the Davis Strait, Greenland [Photo by Mingming Shi]

by Mingming Shi

1) UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, based in Tromsø, is advertising for several Ph.D. fellowship positions in Arctic related fields. Please refer to these links for further information. Good luck!

2) The Arctic Hub published an article on the efforts made to ensure ethical guidelines for research in Greenland, written by a group of specialists in Greenland and abroad. One of the aims of this potential project is to develop ethics instructions for researchers working on Greenlandic affairs in order to give back to the society of Greenland, and to Greenlanders also involved in research. 

3) As The Guardian reported, the people of Finland have been ranked as the happiest people in the world in 2022, for the fifth year in a row. This is according to an annual report sponsored by the United Nations. As the author of the article explained, this ranking is highly connected with personal wellbeing, quality of social systems, good governance and other related factors. After Finland, Denmark came second, followed by Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

4) According to the BBC, smoke, caused mainly by increasing incidents of wildfires, has been contributing to further ice melting in the Arctic, along with other sources of climate change. These fires have been studied as creating ‘brown carbon’ particulates, as opposed to ‘black carbon‘ soot created by diesel engines, and burning coal for fuel, which is also a danger to the Arctic environment. Consequently, a warmer Arctic may cause more wildfires, risking a feedback loop.

Iceland Postcard #2

Poster for Tu Jest Za Drogo / Úff Hvað Allt Er Dýrt Hérna [Photo via Borgarleikhúsið, used with permission]

by Mingming Shi

Tu Jest Za Drogo / Úff Hvað Allt Er Dýrt Hérna / Ohh How Everything Is Expensive Here

Have you ever watched a live play on stage with simultaneous subtitles on your phone? I had never imagined I would enjoy a play in Polish, (which I understand very few words of), at Borgarleikhúsið (City Theater of Reykjavík) while keeping an eye on my phone screen for English subtitles.

The storyline of Tu jest za drogo is simple, and many with foreign backgrounds in Iceland can understand and associate the story with themselves. The setting of the play is in the year 2026, featuring a young couple from Poland, Nadzieja and Eugeniusz, heading to work at a fish factory in Iceland and dreaming about their upcoming wedding. However, life did not go as expected, as they encountered eccentric people and other adventures, not to mention hair-raising prices in the country, as the name of the play suggests. Interestingly, Pawel Bartoszek was the mayor of Reykjavík in this play. In reality, he is a Polish-Icelandic politician.

Besides laughter, the play also brings thoughts. What else can immigrants do in this country, in addition to working at physically demanding jobs like in house construction workers, factory laborers, and waitstaff, or being frontline employees in Iceland’s hospitality sector, including tourism? How does moving to a new country affect the viewpoint of your current relationship with your partner and family? Will you all grow up together or decide to say goodbye to each other?

As an immigrant myself, however, I did not have any Polish friends until I got to know Aleksandra, who is an actor playing the leading role as Nadzieja, and who is also a regular customer at the little food stand where I am working. She has a big smile and optimistic personality, and it was a great experience to see someone you know on the stage. However, this was not her debut. Last year, she and her team starred in Co za poroniony pomysł! Úff hvað þetta er slæm hugmynd! Oh such a bad idea! at Tjarnarbíó, (which means “pond cinema” in Icelandic).

I do recommend everyone book a ticket to see this play, and it is probably particularly interesting for those with immigrant backgrounds. Please refer to this link for further information.

(Just a reminder: get your smartphone well charged before arrival and mute it. 🙂 )

I Met Diego, Finally!

Iceland is, without exaggeration, a land of cats; and I am a cat person, (given my profile picture!) on Over the Circle. It is way more exciting to meet a cat who has often been featured on social media, even more than human celebrities. And there always seems to be a new member added to the list of Iceland’s famous cats from time to time. 

Have you ever heard about Diego, in those furry stars in the country? The first time I got to know this kisa (“kitty” in Icelandic) was because my husband saw him next to a supermarket in Skeifan, a neighborhood in 108 Reykjavík. He thought this cat might be homeless, because this animal almost finished all the snacks given by him in one gulp. However, luckily, he was told by other netizens, (who are apparently also cat fans), that this cat has a home in the neighborhood, and his name is Diego. Besides enjoying popularity mainly through being allowed to stay in many shops in the community, and sampling snacks from his people, Diego also has a page on Facebook, “Spottaði Diego” (Spotted Diego), where over seven thousand fans have shared stories and pictures of this lovely cat.

And I also bumped into Diego one evening when I was in the supermarket where he is usually seen. What a surprise! He is a very beautiful cat with long and soft and well-groomed fur. He stayed quiet, calm, polite and friendly when I met him, unlike some well-known felines who are indifferent to humans (no, I am referring to one example in 101 Reykjavík, not at all…). 

Diego [Photo by Mingming Shi]

The Oldest Icelander Passed Away

Dóra Ólafsdóttir, who was the oldest Icelander, passed away in early February at the age of almost 110. Dóra was born in July 1912, two years before the outbreak of the First World War, and she had survived both the World Wars, The Spanish Flu, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

I never met her or her family in person, yet what struck me the most upon reading about her life was not only her longevity, but also her attitude towards life, lively personality, and cheerful and kind humor, based on what I have read online. When asked how was like to be the oldest Icelander, she responded “It is a bit strange, when one doesn’t hear or see well”, “I think this is enough”, and her comment on Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland who visited her last year, even made me giggle, that “I found her so young”, “She reminded me of a very normal Icelandic, young girl.”

Arctic News Roundup: 28 February – 6 March

[Photo by Mingming Shi]

by Mingming Shi

1) The Government of Greenland (Naalakkersuisut) has stated that it supported and would be joining the sanctions of the European Union against Russia in order to demonstrate regional solidarity with Ukraine.

2) Several Nordic and Arctic governmental and non-governmental institutions, including via the Arctic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Arctic Economic Council have released announcements that they were suspending cooperation with Russia.

3) Amongst the many European and international firms which are withdrawing from the Russian market to protest the war in Ukraine, Swedish furniture firm Ikea confirmed that it would suspend its activities in Russia as well as in Belarus, which has been supporting Moscow in the Ukraine conflict. Ikea joined other Swedish companies, including Ericsson, H&M and Volvo, in pulling out of Russia over the past week.

4) As reported by CNN, Lukoil, the second-largest oil company whose business covers a number of countries around the world, has called for the ‘soonest’ termination of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Like numerous other Russian companies, the energy firm has been encountering boycotts from consumers abroad.

5) Iceland, according to RÚV, has also joined the international sanctions against Russia, ranging from preparations to receive refugees from Ukraine, to removing some Russian products from store shelves, along with some other moves, (e.g. closing its airspace to Russia). According to Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, however, these actions will come with a price for the domestic economy of Iceland, especially in the fisheries and related sectors.

6) The Reykjavík Grapevine picked up a story from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (Vegagerðin) about a pair of swans which were rescued by the employees at the service centre of the organisation in Vík, a town in South Iceland. The birds, who were covered in sand, were recovered and later cleaned and fed before they restarted their adventure.

Arctic News Roundup: 21-27 February

[Photo via Pixabay]

by Mingming Shi

1) The Wilson Quarterly published an article by Múte Egede, Prime Minister of Greenland, entitled Greenland at the Center of A Changing Arctic. This long read article offers an overview of how Greenland has transformed itself from a former colony of the Kingdom of Denmark, to an autonomous land, with greater self-determination, via various international cooperation and exposure, including in the high north. The Prime Minister also conveyed his views on how Greenland has been adapting itself to climate change and contributing to global development. 

2) According to RÚV, Icelandic authorities announced that they would lift all remaining restrictions during the pandemic from Friday, 25 February, applying to both domestic life and border controls. This means the country would be returning back to the pre-pandemic situation for the most part, as masks are still recommended in some occasions, such as in hospitals. However, the government has also warned of the possibility of re-adoption of restrictions in the future if necessary.

3) Peace was torn up again this week, which was not the first time in human history this has happened.

4) The Arctic Frontiers organisation is seeking candidates for two internship positions in Tromsø, Norway. Please refer to these links for further information.