Confidence, knowledge and heart

On February 2, at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference.

Idea is a comprehensive word that applies to almost any aspect of mental activity. A thought, on the other hand, is an idea that is the result of meditation, reasoning, or some other intellectual activity. While a conception is a concept that is held by an individual or small group and that is often colored by imagination and feeling. I have the impression this conference had enliven all three.

The JWC organizers have done a great deal of amazing work. All the long preparation work, the logistics and organization of the event have resulted in creating stronger ties between people, places and knowledge that are often seen as far apart. It revived the interests, animated debates and rejuvenated energy for the following year… until the next meeting!

Confidence, knowledge and heart!”  these three words shouted by the young Sami Isak Utsi, reflect well the purpose of a meeting like JWC. This colorful gathering in the middle of the crude winter is a direct analogy to the task of implementing knowledge into action in regards to climate change.

With roaming temperatures around -35’C; the growing festive ambiance in Jokkmokk due to the winter market also calls for confidence, knowledge and heart!

Dispatch, mix and match

On February 2, at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference

While people are busy outside getting the Jokkmokk Winter Market ready, inside, the JWC is wrapping up. Ideas are reinforced, connections are settled, networking is exponential.

Important last words are sending off the participants in their home countries; making the expression ‘take home message’ more real than ever. Following are some collected missives;

Guiding lights: Stefan Mikaelsson from the Swedish Sami Parliament said that people living in the European arctic have more similarities with other First Nations in northern Canada and Alaska than with their own capitals. This revives the importance of considering arctic topics for and by the people living in those regions.

“Time is flying… but we are the pilots!” voiced Stefan Mikaelsson. Thus, the Sami Parliament asks other countries in the Arctic to consider the impacts of their actions for the following seven generations; a principle also present amongst indigenous people of North America.

 Science as a tool, not a goal: “Scientific research shows that climate change is not new… but climate change brings new aspects to Arctic living”says Ilan Kelman from the Cicero Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.Living conditions in northern regions are based and evaluated by statistics and indexes that are formulated compared to other southern regions; resulting in misleading conclusions. A survey on living conditions in the Arctic (www.arcticlivingconditions.org) offers a set of measured aspects adapted to these regions. Another great portal of information and research on Arctic living and Sami culture (http://icr.arcticportal.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=78&lang=en)

As a scientist ‘producing knowledge’; Ilan Kelman was asking politicians what type of knowledge is needed in order to put into action. He stated that while we should not discard science, it may not be good enough. We need other inputs for more sound decision making.

It is important to put climate change into context; as the whole wheel, not the individual spikes. If we focus on sound and proper social, environmental and economical improvements, adaptation to climate change will be the inevitable byproduct.

Zest of youth: Underlined at the very beginning of the conference, Wolfgang, one of the main organizer, mentioned the need for more youth involvement. Thus many sessions were chaired by younger people.

Also, walking between workshops and roundtables; the common cry is for younger people to get more involved in all spheres of participation. There is much talk about how the youth represents ‘the future solution’. On the other hand though, younger people feel like this is not solely their responsibility. Climate change has been enhanced by past generations and should be tackled from every age group; the mess should be cleaned up all together, not just from the new comers.

Despite the fact that nowadays many political discourse boasts with the ‘have-more-youth-involved’ buzz words, actions must follow from both sides. This means that if the future is really relying on the youth, then more trust most be granted. Space and time must be allowed for listening to the ideas and solutions voiced by the youth. And solutions must be implemented, not just noted in a report. To this, Pierre Hébert at the Embassy of Canada in Sweden asked how we can use social medias to help connecting those actors and strategies.

During an open discussion panel, young Esben Oster Mortensen from Föreningen Nordens ungdom asked a direct question to Eva Vitell from Vattenfall:

Since Vattefall is earning money on fossil fuels; is there a transition plan in place for when to stop relying on fossil fuels – or the plan is to do so until it runs out?” to which he continued; “if so, this proves that someone else should make this decision”.

Sometimes the young are wiser than we think.

The Arctic Council in Jokkmokk

On February 1, at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference.

The afternoon session had the three major countries member of the Arctic Council – USA, Canada and Russia. Although the USA don’t have much Arctic coastline compared to the two others; they have a big population and significant economical power. It was interesting to see the three representatives discoursing about the different agendas of each country.

Mark Brzezinski, Ambassador of the USA said that since the whole country is not willing to ratify Kyoto, it is up to the individual cities in the USA to sign up on a voluntary basis. And when asked why Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol, the counsellor of the Canadian Embassy said it was because the other big ‘players’ were not in… this looks like a fox running after its tail, some whispered in the crowd.

Jonas Sjöstedt, MP at the Swedish Left Party was also part of the discussion and presented the urgency of establishing a stronger commitment between the governing countries in the North. He voiced on the importance of putting a moratorium on fossil fuel exploration in Arctic. Following by explaining that the threats of an oil spill and the consequences are not being well evaluated and would have disastrous long lasting impacts.

The session was chaired by Anna Hövenmark who was delighted to be able to inquire this diverse panel of representatives. “This is quite special to have all of you three in the same room, sitting at the same table, in my hometown” said Hövenmark. As for the audience, it is not often possible to hear about and be able to ask questions to these political figures.

A final plenary discussion with Stefan Mikaelsson from the Swedish Sami Parliament; Jonas Sjöstedt MP in Sweden; Kenneth Backgård, Agneta Granström and Mattias Karlsson, all from the County Council of Norrbotten; Helena Omma from Saminuorra; Søren Würtz from Föreningen Nordens Ungdom and Eva Vitell from Vattenfall.This was a great occasion put forth by the conference to be hearing the various opinions and future plans.

The day was not over yet and already so much had been said and discussed! After this intense full day, some fresh air was needed; so we happily trotted into the cold to join the inauguration of the Jokkmokk Winter Market, a Saami tradition since 1605 now welcoming over 40,000 people. As the sun was going down in the crisp nordic sky, the lights from the stands in the Winter Market were being lit up.

Laponia; in the heart of Sapmi

On February 1, at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference

“In Saami culture we learn by listening, looking, feeling and doing.” says Helena Omma from Laponia Management Organisation, Laponiatjuottjudus. “so when the site was created, we decided to do the same; learning by doing and being part of the management”. Thus, when their homeland in Sweden was designated as the Laponia World Heritage Site from UNESCO, local Saamis were not displaced. This was possible because it is one of the rare sites that seek to keep culture and nature as a living heritage. Laponia integrates the people and land as a whole, but really, the site is enriched because Saami people were and are caretakers of the land.

While Helena Omma and Per-Jonas Parfa are active actors in Laponia, Florence Revelin from the National Museum of Natural History in France is looking at understanding what are the various social spheres linked to a world heritage site. In the case of Laponia, how does tourism, natural resource management and local communities affects one another on a daily basis.
The nearby Laponia is a great physical analogy of this meeting; how, under the guidance of indigenous people, the northern countries can get together to shape the future horizon for the Arctic for and from the communities living in place.

“What is special of Saami culture is the hierarchy, or should I say; the lack of hierarchy.” says Isak Utsi, 20 years old, youngest member of Saminuorra . “Because in the field, when we have to make a decision regarding reindeer herding or other matters, we gather in a circle and listen to everybody”. Perhaps this meeting is this circle allowing space for creating knowledge. Leaving this meeting with our brains filled with knowledge, ideas and people; a new ‘brain-toolbox’.

From game to reality

On January 31, at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference

If the morning session was the intellectual exploration of political and climate change issues, the afternoon was characterized by solution-finding.

Kjetil-Odin Johnsen, creator of WhatIf (a Norwegian Firm) and Christer Jonasson, from the Abisko Scientific Research Station introduced the participants of the JWC to a full afternoon session of ‘WhatIf working groups game’; a board game used as a training tool. A risk analysis game that brings participants to act as mentors and experts on global and local issues resulting from climate change.

When risk analyses are successful, it distills issues into concrete actions and solutions. This then allows to open dialogues” says Kjetil-Odin Johnsen. In this specific event, it was a brilliant way to engage the participants into pushing the thought process undergoing throughout the conference. Also, the great spectrum of different disciplines, sectors, industries and backgrounds of the participants allowed for elaborative creativity to be exchanged. The resulting outcome was an extensive list of concrete, doable and inspiring actions.

Now, the next step is to take these ideas back to our goups, communities and home countries and push these initiatives from paper to reality!

Big picture to local matter

On the second day of the Jokkmokk Winter Conference (JWC) another filled schedule welcomed the participants.
The morning was based on presentations setting the intellectual stage for some afternoon brainstorming.
Steffen Weber, the Secretary General of the EU Arctic Forum began by brushing the horizon that the EU sees for the Arctic. Opening by saying that, too often, Europeans tend to forget the extensive lands and people living north of Stockholm. He then continued with the importance of regulating the practices operated in the North and Arctic. Building on existing networks -like the Arctic Council and EU Arctic Forum- rather than creating new duplicates.

Following was a inspiring presentation from Teemu Palosaari from the Tampere Peace Research Institute in Finland. ‘The Arctic Paradox’ and how we can reach a pan-Arctic agreement through a peaceful negotiation process. Global medias have built a strong story line of arctic conflict between the ‘us and them’, like some sort of aggressive race between countries to grab the goods of the North. More so, this ‘story’ is romantically set in what is perceived as a pristine, empty and expansive white vastness.
But this is not the case, people have and are living in this ‘white vastness’ since a long time and are stronger actors than the media give them the chance to be. There is a need to brake this image with peaceful mitigation.
Overcoming the arctic paradox; is to believe we can reach peaceful agreements by using a diplomatic framework on resource partition and distribution -in this case, mainly oil- says Palosaari.
Human and natural resource security in the arctic should be fed by indigenous people political mobilization: they are the ones who have the ‘Snow-How’.
Palosaari’s presentation offered hope and confidence in human intellect in this time of short-sighted political perspectives.

Maria Eriksson, of the Lycksele municipality in Sweden, presented on the Clim-ATIC (http://www.clim-atic.org/) project and how the Northern Peripheral Regions are adapting to some current impacts of Climate Change. In addition, Anna Leidreiter, of the World Future Council Foundation talked about how the WFC are striving to improve regional development through sustainable energy.

This offered more practical and local views on the solutions that are currently being developed and used; bringing the audience back down to earth after a look into the higher spheres of the global political situation of the North.