What would you like to learn or read about on Cryopolitics? More historical analysis, anecdotes and stories from past travels, current events from random corners of the Arctic, coverage of geopolitics, or something else entirely? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or to get in touch directly.

2020 came and went in a flash, and I blogged much less than I’d like. I recently read writer Matt Webb’s “15 rules for blogging,” and he suggests three posts a week. That seems ambitious, but I do feel that this year, in 2021, I might have a little bit more time to try to commit to at least weekly posts.

Posting regularly has become harder for me with the pressures of a tenure-track job and with the general feeling that there is just now so much Arctic news out there – from terrific and comprehensive sources like Arctic Today and the Barents Observer to more frequent general coverage in mainstream news outlets. The space for sharing perspectives on the Arctic has simply become more crowded and competitive.

2020 was also the year of COVID-19 and lockdowns. I was fortunate enough to still carry out fieldwork in the Arctic last year, traveling to Alaska’s North Slope in January and February. That was when the virus was still mocked as the “Wuhan Flu,” another freak of nature coming out of China, but which surely could never make it to US shores. Coincidentally, I was in Anchorage when the first charter flight from China back to the U.S. touched down at Ted Stevens International Airport on January 28 before ferrying its potentially-infected passengers to California. I also flew on Ravn Air, which two months later would declare bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic. (It has since resumed limited operations in Alaska.)

While on the North Slope, I could hardly have guessed that within months, few people would be able to easily fly, least of all from Asia, where countries still are maintaining tight borders and restrictions on entry to non-residents.

A flight from Deadhorse to Nuiqsut to Utqiagvik on Ravn Air in January 2020. The airline went bankrupt less than three months later as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also couldn’t have predicted that my trip to Alaska would be my last one to the Arctic for a long while. Nevertheless, the time away from the region has given me more time to reflect and think about where to push my research in the coming months and years. Since it’s hard to write about present developments in the Arctic without being there, I imagine a lot more of my work will take on a historical and archival bent until fieldwork becomes feasible again. I may also finally being making a bit of headway on a long-planned book project exploring an environmental history of Arctic transportation.

What would you like to learn from Cryopolitics?

As I face at least another six months, if not a year or more, of being unable to travel to the Arctic, I’m wondering:

What would you like to learn or read about on Cryopolitics? More historical analysis, anecdotes and stories from past travels, current events from random corners of the Arctic, coverage of geopolitics, or something else entirely? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or to get in touch directly.

New book chapter and virtual launch event: The Arctic and World Order

In other news, to start off 2021, four colleagues (Scott Stephenson/RAND Corporation, Kang Yang/Nanjing University, Michael Bravo/University of Cambridge, and Bert De Jonghe/Harvard Graduate School of Design) and I recently contributed a chapter to a volume edited by Kristina Spohr and Dan S. Hamilton, The Arctic and World Order. The edited volume has just been published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Our chapter, “Climate change and the opening of the Transpolar Sea Route: Logistics, governance, and wider geo-economic, societal and environmental impacts, is a condensed version of the paper we published on the same topic in Marine Policy last summer.

The book is free to read online here and can also be ordered in hard copy from the Brookings Institute. Among the long list of contributors, which includes “scholars and practitioners—from Anchorage to Moscow, from Nuuk to Hong Kong,” are Victoria Herrmann, Andreas Osthagen, Marc Lanteigne, Nengye Liu, Inuuteq Holm Olsen, Henry Huntington, and many others.

To launch the book, the Wilson Center and its Polar Institute are organizing a virtual book launch on Tuesday, January 12 from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm ET. Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland, currently the Chair of Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council, and contributors to the book including Wilson Center Fellow Dr. Lawson Brigham and Université de Montréal professor Suzanne Lalonde will be participating. (I won’t be given that the event is taking place in the middle of the night Hong Kong time. Fortunately, for others also in tricky time zones or with other things to do, the event will be recorded for future streaming.) RSVP here.

When does the ball drop on the top of the world?

On that note, here’s an old post that may be fitting as we usher in a new year: “When is it New Year’s at the North Pole?” (Short answer: It’s all relative.)

Categories: Announcements

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