This blog began in February 2009 as the Foreign Policy Association’s Arctic Blog. It ran there for five years until the FPA decided to focus on eight specific topics, the Arctic excluded. With that, I decided to transition the blog to an independent site in February 2014 and rename it Cryopolitics. I remain indebted to the support of the FPA over the past five years. All posts published before February 22, 2014 initially appeared on the Foreign Policy Association’s website. Today, Cryopolitics is syndicated by Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic, Alaska Dispatch, and the Maritime Executive.
The neologism “cryo-politics” was coined by my former advisor, Dr. Michael Bravo, and his colleague, Dr. Gareth Rees, of the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute. The term first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2006 issue of the Brown Journal of International Affairs. Bravo and Rees open their article stating, “There is more to twenty-first century Arctic politics than melting ice, navigable sea routes, and mare liberum, the freedom of the seas.” They also explain that “what is true for the Arctic as an aggregate may not necessarily be true in all parts of the Arctic individually.” Tromsø, Norway, with its direct flights to London and well-stocked supermarkets, is a vastly different place than the heavily polluted Soviet mining town of Monchegorsk, Russia.
From these two points of departure, this blog analyzes developments in the multifaceted region of the Arctic, home to four million people (depending on how you bound it). The stories unfolding are more than just about climate change, as important as that factor is. Commodities cycles, emerging markets in East Asia, indigenous livelihoods, national identities, and scientific endeavors are just some of the forces at work in the Arctic. The bounds of the region themselves are even contested: does Iceland, which barely crosses the Arctic Circle, count as a coastal Arctic country? Can China legitimately claim to be a “near-Arctic” state – or, for that matter, can Maine? These are the issues at stake in cryopolitics.
Although the Arctic is often breathlessly discussed in presentist and even futurist terms focused on high-stakes geopolitics and a thinning ice cap, this blog more critically considers the history, geography, and most importantly, the people shaping events in the Arctic today. By assessing the stakeholders both old and new in the circumpolar north, we can attempt to understand the region a little bit better – and plan for its future more effectively.
The site logo is a polar bear in the shape of the letter “C” adapted from a polar bear icon by Arthur Skripnik via the Noun Project (Creative Commons License 2.0).