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Why is The Arctic Experiencing Social & Environmental Changes?

Do you know what and where the Arctic is situated on our planet? Have you ever visited any of the Arctic regions? If not, you may be surprised at the beauty of the different Arctic regions, its beauty and multitude of flora, fauna and landscapes. The Arctic is the northernmost part of planet Earth, also called the polar north. The Arctic is also the 2nd largest desert in the world, expanding over an area of almost 14 million (14.000.000) square kilometers (km2). As a geographical region, the Arctic includes the Arctic Ocean, adjoining seas, parts of Alaska, Northern Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Geographically the Arctic lies between 66.5°N and the North Pole.

As a comparison, Tampere, where I currently live, is situated at 61.5°N. Each degree of latitude is approximately 111 km apart, so I live 5 x 111 km = 555 km south from the Arctic. In fact, the arctic/polar circle in Finland is in Rovaniemi, which lies approximately 600 km north from Tampere by flight. An hours domestic flight from Tampere to Rovaniemi. If not otherwise familiar to you, Rovaniemi is where Santa Claus lives with his reindeers and helpers. It is also where Mika and Marketa Häkkinen (née Ramesova) were wedded just before Christmas 2016.

Alternatively, several hours by bus or train, or by car it takes almost half a day since we have only little highways in Finland, and during winter months speed limits are lower due to weather conditions, something that is of course also better for the environment. If you travel across Finland by car you will notice how little traffic there is e.g. in comparison with Central Europe, e.g Germany and Italy. Of course, since we are a sparsely populated country. The further north you travel in Finland, the less people will you meet: most of population lives in southern Finland.

But how and why does the Arctic experience social and environmental changes? What I know about these changes is mainly through what I read, and hear from relatives living in Finnish Lapland. My father comes from Kittilä, a small municipality situated not far from several tourist resorts, such as Levi/Sirkka and Ylläs. Having spent many holidays in Lapland from childhood on, the region is of course near my heart. Despite of population declining in many sparsely populated areas in Finland, Lapland is perhaps our number one tourist destination, both for domestic and international visitors. Tourism is continuously expanding and growing in Lapland, and Levi/Sirkka has changed/expanded tremendously in the past couple of decades.

A growing tourism is of course beneficial for a region in many ways, especially in terms of economic value. A growing tourism may also have its setbacks, e.g. in terms of maintaining sustainability, taking care of the environment and ecological well-being.

In general, what comes to social and environmental changes and impacts in the whole Arctic region includes:

  • The Arctic is home to indigenous people, who have long traditions of living in accordance with nature without as little as possible destruction, if any at all. These indigenous Saami people now report how the climate is changing in the Arctic, e.g. in terms of warming, and weather patterns becoming less predictable.
  • Snowfall and snow quality is becoming different, with more icy snow. Sea ice is declining, and water levels in many lakes are dropping.

Learn more about the reported/studied climatic changes in the Arctic by reading e.g. following articles:

GreenFacts (Facts on Health and the Environment)

The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone (The Economist April 29, 2017).

Also watch this short video by NASA – The Arctic and the Antarctic Respond in Opposite Ways:

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

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