Arctic Yearbook 2012
Finger-Stich and Finger
reserves of hydrocarbons in the world. Furthermore, as the International Energy Agency (IEA)
recognized that world peak oil was probably reached in 2006, the pressure to access the few
remaining reserves that can be exploited efficiently (with positive energy return on energy and capital
invested) became very acute. The Arctic Council has highlighted a further technical constraint, with
moral implications bearing on the decision to drilling and shipping in the Arctic: polar ecosystems
are particularly vulnerable to oil spills.
Shifting Arctic Agency
In this second section, we will analyze the last three phases, or decades that have passed since
Gorbachev’s speech, in terms of social agency: who are the actors that have defined the dominant
discourse during each of these phases? What were their interests? What were their strategies? More
precisely, we will see that during the phase following the Second World War, it was mostly scientists
and social movements from outside the Arctic region, who framed Arctic environmental issues,
whereas during the phase following UNCED (1992), the Arctic environment became more defined
by governments, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples, with a strengthening of
the voice of the Arctic as a region. Finally, the most recent phase, at the beginning of the 21
century, has tended to come under the influence of global corporate actors, especially TNCs.
Whereas the Arctic Ocean rim states willing to defend their claims over fossil fuel resources, mining
and fishing resources, and non-Arctic states for their own commercial and (to some extent)
environmental security interests.
The Arctic of the 1980s: Scientists and Social Movements
Immediately after the Cold War, environmental issues were defined by scientists who were largely
working on the margins of their disciplines. Their audience was the rapidly growing ecological, anti-
nuclear and peace movements of the 1980s. Many agents framing the environmental issues actually
came from outside of the Arctic region, namely researchers engaged in peace, conservation and the
sustainable management of natural resources. To recall, the Arctic, at that time, was conceptualized
as pure nature threatened by modernization. Demilitarization and environmental conservation were
the main issues and they were viewed as a means to privilege national economies.
Gorbachev’s speech (1987) illustrated perfectly the spirit of the time and the strategies of the main
actors who would shape Arctic environmental policy in the following decade. His speech echoed the
scientists’ as well as the peace and environmental movements’ concerns. In his speech, he profiled