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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Finger-Stich and Finger
distant sources. Because of reduced photochemistry and particular wind conditions in some Arctic
places in early spring, these aerosols could persist for several weeks, reducing visibility in the lower
troposphere (ibid). Pollution in the Arctic also stems from activities within the region, not only from
mining, but also from extracting oil, starting with the Alaska North Slope field (Prudhoe Bay since
1968) and the Urengoy gas field in Russia, which went into production in 1978. But few other
reserves of oil and gas resources had been identified in the Beaufort Sea and the Barents Sea before
the end of the Cold War. Including mining (coal, gold and other metal mining), Arctic reserves had
been exploited since the nineteenth century, such as on Svalbard Island (Anderson, 2009: 127).
Indeed, during the 1980s, the contaminants issue framed the Arctic image from outside as a common
and global environmental concern. And indigenous peoples, in particular the Inuit, raised an alarm
for impacts on their health in the wake of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), which first met
in Barrow, Alaska, in 1977 (Doubleday, 1996). However, the Arctic, during this period, was mostly
seen from the South as
another world
a world of others
, where a few people struggle for survival,
hunting mammals, seals, polar bears and whales. Whereas native peoples in some Arctic states – US,
Canada, and Greenland – were gaining rights to self-determination and self-government in the 1970s
(Osherenko and Young, 1989: 108-109)
, other inhabitants of the Arctic, including indigenous
peoples from the USSR and numerous immigrants working in extractive industries, the military or
scientific missions, were not part of the Arctic image as seen from Southern perspectives.
Environmental Issues at the End of the Cold War: Protection of Peace and Nature
Gorbachev’s speech acted like a springboard to an accelerating institutionalization of Arctic
environmental agency. Some steps we may recall in this process are outlined below.
In September 1989, the Finnish government took the initiative to invite the eight Arctic governments
to meet and discuss “cooperative measures to protect the Arctic environment” (AEPS, 1991: 1). In
1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first assessment, which
would lead, two years later, to the establishment of the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC). And in 1991, following the collaborative work started in 1989, Finland
organized the first ministerial conference among the eight Arctic states committing to “the
protection of the Arctic environment”. Subsequently the eight states signed the Rovaniemi
Declaration, launching the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS, 1991). Its objectives
were mainly to monitor pollution levels (oil acidification, persistent contaminants, radioactivity) as