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Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Edited by Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland

The Arctic has again become one of the leading issues on the international foreign policy agenda, in a manner unseen since the Cold War. Drawing on the perspectives of geo-politics and international law, this Handbook offers fresh insights and perspectives on the most pressing issues, grouped under the headings of political ascendancy, climate and environmental issues, resources and energy, and the response and policies of affected countries.

Chapter 14: Canadian sovereignty versus northern security: the case for updating our mental map of the Arctic

Lee-Anne Broadhead

Subjects: environment, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, international politics


For more than two decades the international community has actively sought to understand and deal with the anthropogenic causes of climate change. While debating what constitutes practical commitment to common goals the situation has continued to deteriorate rapidly with an ever-increasing number of experts expressing concern that we are reaching a tipping point beyond which no effective corrective action will be possible, leaving only painful decisions about mitigating the effects of ecological collapse. One of the regions experiencing the most dramatic change is the Arctic, where indigenous principles of ecological holism have long been sacrificed on the modern altars of state sovereignty, colonial expansion and military security. As the polar icecap melts, and what is left of the traditional lifestyle threatens to unravel, the inadequacies of the state-centric paradigm are becoming increasingly apparent, as demands by Inuit across the region for a different model of political cooperation grow ever louder. The mental maps we have of a territory – the conceptual coordinates we impose upon it – can to a far-reaching degree shape its development or deformation. In the case of the Arctic we can readily compare the Inuit mental map (revised and relied on over millennia) with that held by representatives of the Canadian state (largely unchanged since the nineteenth century), and through the contrast see a single place depicted as two different worlds.

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