Arctic 2050: Hopeful and Fearful futures


A new magazine called Weapons of Reason, beautifully produced by a design agency called Human After All, has released its first issue on the Arctic. Duncan Depledge and I were invited to contribute pieces on what might the Arctic be like in 2050 – I was asked to write the dystopian vision and Duncan the more hopeful one. While there is a longer tradition of utopian and dystopian literature and films pertaining to the Arctic (and the Antarctic as it happens), we addressed how certain drivers such as resource exploitation, governance challenges, indigenous politics, climate change and the like might produce particular political geographies of the Arctic region; some of which might be quite encouraging such as a moratorium on central Arctic ocean militarisation and some of which might be distinctly unpleasant such as conflict on the high seas over fishing rights.

As I wrote in my pessimistic essay about the Arctic:

“While some may expect an optimistic, largely pacific vision of the Arctic in the decades to come, there is another possibility. A vision less hopeful, where conflict and calamity animate and inflame. Perhaps we got our first glimpse of such a future when a Russian flag was gently deposited at the bottom of the central Arctic Ocean in 2007.

It’s 2050. Fearing increased interest and even exploitation from outsiders, Russia, followed by other Arctic states, invests heavily in advanced ships, planes, and other materials designed to enhance their powers to survey, to administer, to exploit, to explore and to defend from those who might imperial their sovereign interests. New technologies, especially in the field of underwater mining, further enhance interest in the areas beyond the Arctic states’ continental shelves – with Russia, Canada and even an independent Greenland beginning to map, survey and exploit the remote corners of their outer limits”.


Lets hope I am wrong and Duncan’s more hopeful reading of what the Arctic might be like in 2050 prevails.

If you are interested in obtaining this splendid magazine issue on the Arctic (with a great opening essay from the environmental historian who has recently written a splendid history of the Arctic, John McCannon) then order from here.



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