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Arctic shipping and coastal communities’ engagement with their surrounding natural environment

Tildelt: kr 0,17 mill.

The topic for the proposed cooperation is coastal communities’ interactions with their natural environment in a time when Arctic shipping is developing and is expected to grow. The background for the topic is the fact that the migration of ice-edge northward, its future thinning and weakening contributes to an increasing shipping activity in the areas that previously experienced limited ecological footprint. Recent findings from the Canadian Arctic and the Barents region (including Svalbard and Northern Russia) document an array of direct and indirect impacts, from increasing ship traffic on local natural environment. However, much of the research has been conducted in the relation to the shipping activities that are taking place along the coastal, Northeast and the Northwest passages, rather than in the opening Arctic Ocean. The further investigation is needed to understand how the opening of the Transpolar Route (TPR) may affect the historical dependence of the Arctic communities on their surrounding environment and what role the Arctic communities may play in the environmental governance. Though the TPR will be attractive for the transit shipping, the destination shipping that dependent on interactions with local communities (e.g., cruise, fishing, Search and Rescue, research) will dominate in the opening areas. Such human–nature interactions might be explored from the social constructionist perspectives that are adopted in environmental sociology. This theoretical starting point is useful in understanding human actors’ perceptions, reactions and adaptive responsive to changing environmental conditions. Simultaneously, the conceptualization of human–nature relations in a period of such intense changes requires interdisciplinary insights and integration of the historical and contemporary perspectives on communities’ engagement with their surrounding natural environment.