The geography of the Arctic has long been a geography of fantasies—fantasies of manly heroism, of colonial exploitation, and especially today of climate disaster and redemption. But the real Arctic has even longer been a home to indigenous peoples and other northerners. Who pays the price when our Arctic fantasies meet reality? This talk will uncover the moral dimensions of the Arctic, and challenge us to think afresh about this fascinating and special part of the world.
It was an honour to address the Royal Geographical Society in the East of England this past week about ‘The Moral Geography of the Arctic’.
As the title suggests, I was concerned in my lecture to uncover how we have imagined the Arctic as a place—that is, as location with meaning and value—and how our ‘Arctic imaginaries’ have enabled or justified troubling treatment of the region and its peoples. Looking at the emotional struggle over seal hunting in the 1980s, as well as the climate emergency of today, I called on the audience to think again about the Arctic. By recognising it first and foremost as a homeland for the people who live there, and by learning from them what it means to call the Arctic home, we can begin to correct our morally dangerous Arctic fantasies, and to approach the region in a better way.
A copy of my presentation slides are available online.