"The Harpa Conference Centre rises up like a glass beehive from the pier of Reykjavík, and for three days in October it feels a bit like a busy hive too; a coming and going of politicians and established scientists, students and high-ranking military officials, Indigenous leaders and business representatives. The innumerable sessions of the Arctic Circle Assembly are as varied as the people in attendance, with one commonality bringing them together: a shared interest and concern for the Arctic.
Thanks to a scholarship that I got through UArctic, I was granted the opportunity to attend this year's Assembly. It proved to be a profound experience in several ways. Firstly, it allowed me to reconnect with many of the topics that had come up during my Master's in Arctic Science at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines / Paris-Saclay. The sessions and conversations at the Assembly, however, forced me to engage more deeply with the subject matter, and allowed me to understand the profound importance of many topics that until then sometimes had still felt somewhat theoretical. I was for instance especially struck by the way Indigenous rights were consistently brought to the fore during the Assembly sessions, and how important it is to keep doing this. Although much remains to be improved upon, this has left me feeling inspired and hopeful for the future of Arctic governance, and equally for the potential to design and conduct scientific research in a truly post-colonial manner.
Attending the conference furthermore impressed upon me the relevance of the Arctic in a political sense. The United States and India presented their Arctic strategies, and alongside them, representatives from all across the world joined the conversation. And yet, above all these sessions hung the shadow of the war in Ukraine. This manifested itself in the absence of Russian delegates and studies on the Russian Arctic, but also in strikingly explicit speeches by representatives during the political sessions. Especially during the plenary on NATO's role in the Arctic, it felt as if the Cold War had returned.
Apart from teaching me these general lessons on the Arctic and the contemporary issues facing it, my trip to Reykjavík also very specifically influenced my own research. I am studying Arctic climatic intervention schemes that seek to mitigate some of the worst effects of climatic change from a broad humanities and social science perspective. Apart from attending the Arctic Circle Assembly, this scholarship also enabled me to participate in the Frederik Paulsen High-level Seminar - a pre-event of the Assembly - on Greenland ice sheet stabilization. Over two days, I was able to learn about the development of this very novel research idea and speak to scientists and engineers who worked on different elements of the project. Again, the importance of Indigenous consent, co-design, and co-operation in the project was most insightful for me, showing me in practice how contemporary science can and should be done.
Building on the lessons of these two seminar days, my interest was furthermore drawn by an Assembly session on Arctic climate repair, and especially by the way the activist group Operaatio Arktis turned the general narrative of climate intervention around and spoke about a moral imperative to do this research. A further stimulating idea came to me during the Assembly sessions on the Third Pole Program which seeks to extend the lessons learnt in the Arctic to the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. After hearing about the relatively underexplored commonalities between the Arctic and the high altitude parts of the cryosphere, I now aim to include a study of potential climate interventions in both areas into a research program on cryosphere climate intervention schemes that I hope to develop in the next few months during my research stay at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland.
The scholarship allowed me to achieve all these things. Without it, I most definitely could not have covered the costs of my travel. The UArctic network also provided me with many valuable contacts and allowed me to meet wonderful people, thereby potentially linking my research to many other research centres and countries. This scholarship has therefore allowed me to solidify my conviction that I am working on a valuable topic, and has helped me to connect it to other real-world ideas and projects. I therefore want to wholeheartedly thank UArctic and especially the donor for this scholarship, and I hope many others after me will be able to benefit from receiving it!"
Albert van Wijngaarden
October 24, 2022
This scholarship was made possible thanks to a private donation towards youth participation in Arctic events. UArctic thanks the donor for their generosity and support in our mission!