Arctic Triumph pp 129-146 | Cite as

Not All Black and White: The Environmental Dimension of Arctic Exploration

  • Nadia French
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


The modernist narrative of human progress noticeably shifted under the climate change paradigm, which brought into the Arctic discourse both slow long-term processes resulting in shifting biophysical properties of the entire planet and rapid tipping events and their effects onto its nature and people. While literature abounds with images of mythical opposition between the Arctic nature and the industrial advances of the increasingly resource-dependent world, the lessons learned from the decades of exploration are often taken matter-of-factly. This chapter explores the modern environmental history of polar exploitation and probes for ways in which changing representations of the Arctic environment have shaped our interactions with it. While taking stock of regulatory, political and attitudinal shifts is an important thought experiment, the overall lesson is that the ‘catching-up’, action-before-knowledge approach may not hold up in the future.


Arctic exploration Environment Extractive industries Cleanup Preservation 


  1. Allen, R. C., & Keay, I. (2001). The first great whale extinction: The end of the bowhead whale in the Eastern Arctic. Explorations in Economic History, 38, 448–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. AMAP. (2017). Chemicals of emerging Arctic concern. Summary for policy-makers. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  3. Anisimov, O., & Reneva, S. (2006). Permafrost and changing climate: The Russian perspective. Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, 35(4), 169–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Avango, D., Nilsson, A. E., & Roberts, P. (2013). Assessing Arctic futures: Voices, resources and governance. The Polar Journal, 3(2), 431–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. BLM. (2013). National petroleum reserve in Alaska: 2013 legacy wells strategic plan. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  6. Bruno, A. (2010). Industrial life in a limiting landscape: An environmental interpretation of Stalinist social conditions in the far north. International Review of Social History, 55(S18), 153–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. CBCNews. (2017). N.W.T. premier issues ‘red alert’ on ‘colonial’ attack on territory’s oil and gas future. Accessed 4 Sept 2018.
  8. Christensen, M., Nilsson, A. E., & Wormbs, N. (Eds.). (2013). Media and the politics of Arctic climate change: When the ice breaks. Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Clark, R. C., & Finley, J. S. (1982). Occurrence and impact of petroleum on Arctic environments. In L. Rey (Ed.), The Arctic Ocean. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Clement, C. H., & Stenson, R. E. (2002). Regulatory challenges of historic uranium mines in Canada. IAEA-CN-93. International conference on safe decommissioning for nuclear activities: Assuring the safe termination of practices involving radioactive materials. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  11. Conkling, P., Alley, R. B., Broecker, W. S., Denton, G., & Comer, G. (2013). The fate of Greenland: Lessons from abrupt climate change. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Cózar, A., Martí, E., Duarte, C. M., García-de-Lomas, J., Van Sebille, E., Ballatore, T. J., et al. (2017). The Arctic Ocean as a dead end for floating plastics in the North Atlantic branch of the Thermohaline Circulation. Science Advances, 3(4).Google Scholar
  13. Doel, R. E., Wråkberg, U., & Zeller, S. (2014). Science, environment, and the New Arctic. Journal of Historical Geography, 44, 2–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Donskoy, S. (2017). Ministr prirodnyh resursov i ekologii RF Sergey Donskoy rasskazal korrespondentam TASS… (The Minister of natural resources and ecology RF Sergey Donskoy told TASS journalists…) 27 March. Accessed 29 Aug 2018 [publication in Russian].
  15. Dunbar, M. J. (1968). Ecological development of polar regions (119 pp). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Ellis, R. (2010). On thin ice: The changing world of the polar bear. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  17. Emmerson, C. (2010). The future history of the Arctic. New York.Google Scholar
  18. Equinor. (2018). Why it’s responsible to explore the Barents sea. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  19. Finger, M. (2016). The Arctic, laboratory of the anthropocene. InFuture security of the global Arctic: State policy, economic security and climate (pp. 121–137). London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.Google Scholar
  20. Government of Canada. (2009). Canada’s northern strategy: Our north, our heritage, our future. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2009.Google Scholar
  21. Government of Canada. (2016). Canadian protected areas status report 2012–2015. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  22. Government of Greenland. (2014). Greenland’s oil and mineral strategy 2014–2018. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  23. Greenpeace. (2017). Greenpeace Rossii peredal vlastyam kartu arkticheskih svalok. [publication in Russian].
  24. Herlugson, C. J., & Parnell, J. A. (1996). Environmental assessment on Alaska’s North Slope. InSPE health, safety and environment in oil and gas exploration and production conference. Richardson: Society of Petroleum Engineers.Google Scholar
  25. Hoag, H. (2017). Nations put science before fishing in the Arctic. Science, 358(6368), 1235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jaffe, D., Cerundolo, B., Rickers, J., Stolzberg, R., & Baklanov, A. (1995). Deposition of sulfate and heavy metals on the Kola Peninsula. Science of the Total Environment, 160, 127–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jamieson, D. (2011). The nature of the problem. In J. S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard, & D. Schlosberg (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of climate change and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Josephson, P. R. (2014). The conquest of the Russian Arctic. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kirk, E. (Ed.). (1996). Assessing the risks of nuclear and chemical contamination in the former Soviet Union. NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Nuclear and Chemical Contamination in the Countries of the Former Soviet Union: Cleanup, Management, and Prevention. Atlanta, Ga. Dordrecht, London: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  30. Körber, L. A., MacKenzie, S., & Stenport, A. W. (Eds.). (2017). Arctic environmental modernities: From the age of polar exploration to the era of the anthropocene. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  31. Korolev, A.V. (2016). Ekologicheskaya reabilitatsia territoriy i akvatoriy Arkticheskogo regiona Rossii (Ecological reclamation of land and offshore areas of the Arctic region). In Arktika: Nastoyascheye i Buduscheye. Sbornik dokladov. [publication in Russian].Google Scholar
  32. Kovalchuk, A. B., & Hardinge, P. E. (2002). Coal industry of the former USSR: Coal supply system and industry development. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lackenbauer, P. W., Farish, M., & Arthur-Lackenbauer, J. (2005). The Distant Early Warning (DEW) line: A bibliography and documentary resource list. Accessed 20 July 2018.
  34. Lackenbauer, P. W., & Dean, R. (2016). Canada’s northern strategy under the Harper conservatives: Key speeches and documents on sovereignty, security, and governance, 2006–15. Calgary: University of Calgary Publ.Google Scholar
  35. Latour, B. (2018). Facing Gaia: Eight lectures on the new climate regime. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  36. Lenton, T. M., Held, H., Kriegler, E., Hall, J. W., Lucht, W., Rahmstorf, S., & Schellnhuber, H. J. (2008). Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(6), 1786–1793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Loomis, C. C. (1977). The Arctic sublime. In U. C. Knoepflmacher & G. B. Tennyson (Eds.), Nature and the Victorian imagination (pp. 95–112). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  38. Maki, A. W. (1992). Of measured risks: The environmental impacts of the Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, oil field. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 11(12), 1691–1707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morse, K. (2009). The nature of gold: An environmental history of the Klondike gold rush. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  40. N.A. (2001). Former military site in Alaska contaminated with toxic chemicals. Environmental News Network, Berkeley, Calif.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  41. Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. (2017). Environmental report. Environmental work by the oil and gas industry. Oslo: Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. Accessed 4 Sept 2018.
  42. Notz, D., & Stroeve, J. (2016). Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission. Science, 354(6313), 747–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. (2007). Discussion paper. Contaminated sites in Nunavut. Remediation of abandoned military and other contaminated sites. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  44. Nuttall, M. (2012). Encyclopedia of the Arctic. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oehme, M., & Ottar, B. (1984). The long range transport of polyclorinated hydrocarbons to the Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters, 11(11), 1133–1136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Offshore Energy Today. (2017). Alaska: Senators move to revoke Obama’s offshore drilling ban. Accessed 4 Sept 2018.
  47. Pacyna, J. M., & Oehme, M. (1988). Long-range transport of some organic compounds to the Norwegian Arctic. Atmospheric Environment (1967), 22(2), 243–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Permafrost International Conference. (1963). Proceedings. National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. Accessed 29 Sept 2018.
  49. Permafrost Second International Conference. (1973a, July 13–28). North American contribution. Yakutsk: USSR. National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. Accessed 29 Sept 2018.
  50. Permafrost Second International Conference. (1973b, July 13–28). USSR contribution. Yakutsk: USSR. National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. Accessed 29 Sept 2018.
  51. Pravitelstvo Rossii. (2016). Pasport prioritetnogo proyekta “Snizheniye negativnogo vozdeystviya na okruzhayuschuyu sredu posredstvom likvidatsii obyektov nakolplennogo vreda okruzhayuschey srede i snizheniya doli zahoroneniya tverdyh kommunalnyh othodov”. [publication in Russian]. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  52. Prime Minister’s Office. (2013). Finland’s strategy for the Arctic region 2013. Accessed 1 Sept 2018.
  53. Pryde, P. R. (1991). Environmental management in the Soviet Union (Vol. 4). Cambridge: CUP Archive.Google Scholar
  54. Putin, V. (2017, March 30). Mezhdunarodny forum “Arktika – territoriya dialoga”. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  55. Quinn, P. K., Shaw, G., Andrews, E., Dutton, E. G., Ruoho-Airola, T., & Gong, S. L. (2007). Arctic haze: Current trends and knowledge gaps. Tellus B, 59(1), 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Regjeringen. (2015). Declaration concerning the prevention of unregulated high seas fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  57. Richter-Menge, J., Overland, J. E., & Mathis, J. T. (Eds.). (2016). Arctic report card 2016, Scholar
  58. Roche, D. (2000, February/March). A distant environmental warning: Lessons learned from Canada’s cleanup of the Distant Early Warning (Dew) line in the north. Encompass: Alberta’s Magazine on the Environment. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  59. Rosen, J. (2017, February 9). After the ice goes. Nature, 542.Google Scholar
  60. Russian Federation. (2008). Osnovy gosudarstvennoy politiki Rossiyskoy Federatsii v Arktike na period do 2020 i dalneyshuyu perspektivu (Foundations of the state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic through to 2020 and beyond). [publication in Russian]. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  61. Russian Federation. (2013). Strategiya razvitiya Arkticheskoy zony Rossiyskoy Federatsii i obespecheniya natsionalnoy bezopasnosti na period do 2020 (Strategy of Arctic Development and National Security). [publication in Russian]. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  62. Russian Federation. (2017). Ministerstvo prirodnyh resursov i ekologii. (2017). V sohraneniye prirody severnyh rayonov Rossii budet vlozheno 8,4 mln evro (Protection of Russia’s northern regions will receive 8.4 mL euro in investment). [publication in Russian]. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  63. Sabin, P. (2012). Crisis and continuity in US oil politics, 1965–1980. The Journal of American History, 99(1), 177–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sale, R., & Potapov, E. (2010). The scramble for the Arctic. London: Frances Lincoln Ltd.Google Scholar
  65. Sand, M., Berntsen, T. K., Von Salzen, K., Flanner, M. G., Langner, J., & Victor, D. G. (2016). Response of Arctic temperature to changes in emissions of short-lived climate forcers. Nature Climate Change, 6(3), 286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sellheim, N. (2012). The reflection of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in the Barents environmental cooperation. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 3(2), 218–243.Google Scholar
  67. Shaw, G. E. (1995). The Arctic haze phenomenon. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 76(12), 2403–2413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Siegel, J. (2017, November 2). Lisa Murkowski says drilling in Alaska refuge can raise $1 billion. Washington Examiner. Accessed 4 Sept 2018.
  69. Spiridonova, I. (2018). Arctic cleanup unique experience. Sozvezdiye, 26, 19–25. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  70. Stone, D. P. (2015). The changing Arctic environment. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Troubetzkoy, A. S. (2011). Arctic obsession: The lure of the far north. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.Google Scholar
  72. U.S. Department of State. (2017). Meeting on high seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, 28–30 November 2017: Chairman’s Statement. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  73. U.S. Department of the Interior. (2016). Interior issues final regulations to raise safety & environmental standards for any future exploratory drilling in U.S. Arctic waters. Accessed 4 Sept 2018.
  74. UNEP. (2001). Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants. Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  75. Wadhams, P. (2012). Arctic ice cover, ice thickness and tipping points. Ambio, 41(1), 23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wadhams, P. (2017). A farewell to ice: A report from the Arctic. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Walker, D. A. (1996). Disturbance and recovery of Arctic Alaskan vegetation. In J. F. Reynolds & J. D. Tenhunen (Eds.), Landscape function and disturbance in Arctic Tundra (Ecological studies (Analysis and synthesis)) (Vol. 120). Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  78. White House. (2017). Presidential executive order implementing an America-first offshore energy strategy. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  79. Wong, M. (2017). Canada’s newest and largest marine protected area: Tallurutiup Imanga – Lancaster Sound. IUCN.’s-newest-and-largest-marine-protected-area-tallurutiup-imanga-–-lancaster-sound. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
  80. Wormbs, N., & Sörlin, S. (2017). Arctic futures: Agency and assessing assessments. In L. A. Körber, S. MacKenzie, & A. W. Stenport (Eds.), Arctic environmental modernities (pp. 247–262). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Young, O. R. (1985). The age of the Arctic. Foreign Policy, (61), 160–179.Google Scholar
  82. Young, O. R. (2012). Arctic tipping points: Governance in turbulent times. Ambio, 41(1), 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Zellen, B. S. (2009). Arctic doom, Arctic boom: The geopolitics of climate change in the Arctic. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.Google Scholar
  84. Zhulidov, A. V., Robarts, R. D., Pavlov, D. F., Kämäri, J., Gurtovaya, T. Y., Meriläinen, J. J., & Pospelov, I. N. (2011). Long-term changes of heavy metal and sulphur concentrations in ecosystems of the Taymyr Peninsula (Russian Federation) North of the Norilsk Industrial Complex. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 181(1-4), 539–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadia French
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations