Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic

Course dates: June 10-July 2

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A canary in the coalmine of climate change, an area of global opportunity, or both?

This summer course focuses on the increasing international interest in the Arctic in the wake of the global climate change and growing international demand for minerals and energy resources, which is having profound effects across the circumpolar North. If the Arctic Ocean becomes free of sea ice in the summer, there may be new possibilities for resource extraction, tourism and trans-Arctic shipping there. As a consequence, Arctic governance and sustainable resource use have become central items on the political agenda of states, both from inside and beyond the region. The objective of this course is to explain these developments from a long-term historical perspective. The course is a unique opportunity for program students at KTH and The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the US to study Arctic change at KTH and in the field on Svalbard in the High Arctic.

Objectives and learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to provide students with a thorough orientation on contemporary and long-term environmental and social changes in the Arctic. What environmental and socio-political changes has the region experienced? How have humans exploited the Arctic and why? What were the impacts, how have Arctic communities handled them and why? How can we draw upon past experiences when dealing with the present?

After the course, students will be able to: 1) Understand climatic and environmental changes in the Arctic over time, and how these are creating new risks and opportunities today, 2) describe and explain the main processes of societal and economic change in the region (science and discovery, extractive industries, geopolitics), 3) understand the impacts and legacies of such activities for Arctic communities and environments, how stakeholders have dealt with these legacies and why, 4) conduct basic field research through documentation of natural phenomena and cultural remains, and conducting interviews, 5) perform simple research tasks by using and combining different sources and methods, and 6) critically analyze current events in the Arctic, in relation to the course contents.

Organization and general outline

The first part of the course takes place at KTH/Valhallavägen campus in Stockholm, from June 10-20, consisting of a series of lectures and museum visits on the topic Arctic environmental and societal change. The second part of the course takes place on the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, from June 23-July 2, and consists of different field work exercises in Longyearbyen—Svalbard’s main center of activity—and the semi-abandoned Russian settlement Pyramiden, focusing on various aspects of change in the Arctic, including socio-economic-political institutions, and the natural and built environment.

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Belongs to: Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Last changed: Apr 02, 2019