Monday, December 15, 2008

Canada's Academic Commitment to the Arctic

Canadian-US relations in the Arctic are strong, their diverging views regarding the Northwest Passage and Beaufort Sea boundary issues are well-managed, and academic exchanges on arctic topics are thriving. Indeed, the health of those international exchanges contributes significantly to the fact that the first two assertions can be made so confidently. A remarkable conference on Arctic Change in Quebec City from December 9-12, 2008, attracted some 900 scientists, policy makers, students and community members to share their latest research and undertakings. Attendees were predominantly from Canada, but many other countries were well represented. The primary organizer was ArcticNet, self described as "a Network of Centres of Excellence that brings together scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners in Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector to study the impacts of climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic." (continued below)

ArcticNet Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Inuit Circumpolar Council Arctic Frontiers Arctos

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Study of Environmental Arctic Change International Study of Arctic Change International Polar Year Government of Canada

Université Laval

The animated substantive discussions and collegial respect so evident in Quebec City confirm one basic tenet: Any commitment that arctic governments make to fostering academic exchange at this level will be repaid many times over in ideas and concrete steps to address the unprecedented change now facing the region. Initiatives such as University of the Arctic offer additional, multinational models for multiplying the effect of trans-boundary research collaboration.

The Arctic is much more a part of national identity in Canada than in the United States. Nonetheless, multiple efforts within the United States promote arctic research, including the
Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, a non-governmental organization whose work complements the activities of
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission; the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (a partner of the Quebec City conference), the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee and the NSF Office of Polar Programs and the National Academies' Polar Research Board.

Arctic Mapping at the Arctic Change Conference
The Arctic Change program is available on the
conference website where the presentations will also soon be accessible. With respect to Arctic mapping and sovereignty issues, three Arctic Change events were of particular note:
Larry Mayer's Plenary Address "Mapping the High Arctic: The Challenges and the Joys" and two panels, details of which are available on the Conference Program page:

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.