Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic
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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.
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Chapter 17: Controlling the long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into the Arctic: progressions and political pairings

Emily Mason and David L. VanderZwaag


While the Arctic is often considered an iconic symbol of a pristine environment, the stark reality indicates that the region no longer remains in its natural and uncontaminated state. The long-range transport of contaminants from distant societies has impacted the Northern environment and placed Arctic inhabitants’ health and cultures at risk (AMAP 2014, pp. 4–7). Studies dating back to the mid-1980s indicate that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are arriving in the Arctic at alarming rates (Donaldson et al. 2013, p. 1). POPs comprise some of the most ‘dangerous compounds ever produced’ and include pesticides and industrial chemicals and by-products (Olsen 2003, pp. 2–3). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) are two well-known examples of POPs. While PCBs have been used in industrial fluids and plastics among other things (UNEP 2005, p. 2), DDT is a powerful insecticide that is predominantly used to control disease (UNEP 2001, Annex B). Because of the transboundary nature of POPs, international cooperation has been advanced as the main option to prevent a tragedy of the commons outcome (Olsen 2003, p. 121; Loganathan and Lam 2012, p. ix). The fact that the North provides an early indication of the problems that will soon manifest in other parts of the world if action and behavioural change are delayed (AMAP 2014, p. 6) further heightens the need to develop a comprehensive POPs management regime. However, developing effective management responses has proven difficult (VanderZwaag and Powers 2008, p. 424).

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