L’Arctique en mutation / The Changing Arctic

L’Arctique en mutation / The Changing Arctic is a Nordic-French programme for local communities who are stakeholders in a changing region, and which focuses attention on human ecology.

The “L’Arctique en mutation / The Changing Arctic” programme is being implemented by the French Embassies in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden under the Fonds d’Alembert 2016 with the financial backing of the Institut français.

The project comprises a series of four one-day seminars (conference + research workshop), one in each of the four countries, based around around four complementary themes: Urbanization, Health, Ecological and Governance Issues, and Heritage. These seminars aim to paint a dynamic picture of the Arctic region and show the role that France can play there.

The emphasis is very much on local communities. The effects of climate change have had the heaviest impact on these inhabitants of the Arctic, who have seen unprecedented upheavals in their environment and societies in recent decades. By adopting a multi-disciplinary and regional approach, the project aims to encourage discussions in the Nordic region and promote the excellence of French scientific research.

Special efforts will be made to recognize the contributions, discussions and outcomes of these seminars, including a dedicated website for the entire event, and on social media the scientific Twitter account of the four Instituts français (@IFFScience, @IFDScience, @IFN_Science,@ScienceFR_SE).

Programme:

  • Urbanization in Umeå, Sweden on 10 June, in partnership with the Arctic Research Centre at Umeå University (Arcum)

The Arctic is undergoing rapid urbanization. This is a major challenge which was clearly identified in the Megatrends report published by Nordregio in 2011. As the home to traditionally nomadic communities and seasonal activities, the Arctic is seeing growth in its urban centres with the arrival of new activities (e.g. resource development and tourism) while in other areas the population is in decline, leading to major shifts in the population structure of these towns and regions. The exodus of women and skilled workers, the ageing of the remaining population, changes in the traditional habitat and adaptation to uncertain future climate conditions means that the concept of towns in the Arctic must be re-examined. Northern Sweden is also the setting for the spectacular relocation project of the town of Kiruna. Built on a huge iron ore deposit (the largest in Europe), Kiruna will have been almost entirely relocated by 2020. This unprecedented worksite could provide an opportunity to rethink the role of urban spaces in the Arctic.

  • Health in Oulu, Finland on 13 June, in partnership with the University of Oulu

Drastic changes in the lifestyles of Arctic communities are having a significant impact on their health. In addition to new non-infectious epidemics, e.g. linked to changes in eating habits, the inherent challenges in the region such as pollution, scattered settlements and poorly-developed transport infrastructure pose an increased health risk to Arctic populations. Conversely, studies show that the lifestyles of local communities make them less prone to certain illnesses. Studying the physical and psychological health of local communities is a growing research area in northern countries.

  • Ecological and Governance Issues in Tromsø, Norway (to be confirmed) in partnership with the University of Tromsø (“the Arctic University of Norway”)

With the Arctic Council Secretariat based in the city, Tromsø is now clearly the global hub for coordinating and monitoring activities in the Arctic. Local communities are the agents of change, while also being the main subjects thereof. Far from hindering ecological innovation, they often drive it by modernizing age-old techniques or using their in-depth knowledge of a harsh environment acquired over generations. They will play an essential role in providing a concerted response to the ecological challenges in the region.

  • Heritage in Nuuk, Greenland in the autumn, in partnership with the University of Greenland (where the Danish Embassy has seconded an international volunteer)

The local communities also have an artistic, cultural and linguistic heritage which is often unknown outside of the Arctic region. The changes taking place in these societies, however, have a major impact on this heritage. Whether it be language transfer, the impact of tourism on artistic production, customs or traditional arts and crafts, local communities must re-examine their heritage in a globalized Arctic. Due to its exceptional location, small population and unique linguistic space, Greenland is the perfect setting for discussions on changes in its inhabitants’ traditional heritage. The educational aspect is also important and will supplement the ongoing productive discussions between France and Greenland on this issue.

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