Conference for a sustainable Arctic

Published: 26 January 2018

A local perspective that includes indigenous people can be the key to sustainable development in the Arctic region. This week researchers from three countries met and took history as a point of departure to discuss a sustainable Arctic.

– The Arctic is undergoing vast transformation and at Luleå University of Technology we have significant social science and technical research on natural resources and climate change. Recognizing the relationships between people from different groups in combination with knowledge of our shared history, is crucial for understanding our present and discussing possible future scenarios. Globally, there is increasing focus on indigenous peoples' perspectives, and with this conference, we aim to bolster this field in Sweden, says May-Britt Öhman, guest researcher at Luleå University of Technology.

At the conference "Arctic Sustainable Futures?" organised by Luleå University of Technology in collaboration with Uppsala University and the project Sámi Land Free University, some of the leading researchers in the field from Canada, Australia and Sweden participated. They discussed how studies relating to indigenous peoples can contribute to Arctic society. The aim was to build networks and promote this research field at Luleå University of Technology as the northernmost Swedish university in Sápmi.

– The university has the opportunity to combine technical knowledge with Sami and other local perspectives. We have the resources and the research, we are located in Sami Indigenous Territory, and there is international demand for this field of research, says May-Britt Öhman.

Traditional knowledge can solve challenges

A source of conflict receiving media attention in recent years is mineral prospecting and mine development in the Arctic region. Roine Viklund, researcher in History at Luleå University of Technology and one of the lecturers at the conference, says that the place and its historical significance has often provided arguments for both sides of the divide.

– The conflicts emerging in local communities have been devastating. The dividing-line between those who are in favor of or opposed to mine establishments indicate the different perceptions of growth and sustainability. 

There is considerable knowledge within Sami tradition about survival in region-specific conditions, and these perspectives need to be included in decision making processes, says May-Britt Öhman. She believes that todays’ use of wind and water in energy production is not sustainable in the long run, and also increasingly marginalizes Sami culture. Traditional Sami knowledge combined with current research could contribute to better solutions.

– The wind power has a life span of about 30 years and the dams in the Luleå river are aging annually, which means increasing safety risks. Targeted research efforts where indigenous peoples’ perspectives are taken seriously could be instrumental in finding ways to combine technological development and traditional knowledge, and contribute to the sustainable use of natural resources, she says.

Contact: May-Britt Öhman, 070 284 32 40

Contact

Roine Wiklund

Roine Wiklund, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 491650
Organisation: History, Social Sciences, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences

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