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5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Understanding the Arctic, December 1, 2012
This review is from: The Future History of the Arctic (Hardcover)
Barren wasteland, hostile wilderness, obstacle to trade routes, frontier to be explored, raw powerful force to be conquered by man and science, doorway to vast resource wealth, vital strategic asset, laboratory for advancing understanding of the environment...these are just some of the ways we have perceived the Arctic region during our history on this planet. Emmerson's book takes you to a region that is poorly understood by most, but which may be one of the most crucial areas of this planet to understand both now and in the future. The book is comprehensive; it examines several Arctic issues from multiple points of view, giving the reader a broader understanding of the complex realities facing the nations that border this region, as well as the rest of the planet whose stake in the Arctic increases with each passing year.

Emmerson walks you through the past history: Soviet exploration, the Gulag system, Stalin's industrialization, the scramble for land and resources by the U.S. and Canada, the region's importance to World War 2 and the Cold War, the rushes for gold, oil, and minerals over the course of the last century and a half. He lucidly relates the complicated process of how Arctic land, ice and seabed are claimed, and gives you an idea of the difficulty in balancing the interests of business, government, science, and indigenous populations. He introduces you to some of the major personalities that defined our understanding of the region, such as Fridtjof Nansen. He also gives you a framework for understanding the dilemma faced by each Arctic nation: Russia's choice between maintaining national control of its vast oil and gas resources or seeking Western aid in developing them in the Arctic; the environmental and native concerns about the U.S. developing its Alaskan oil reserves; Norway's balanced approach between exporting hydrocarbons and environmental stewardship and whether the country can sustain that approach as it shifts to Arctic development; the impact of climate change on Greenland, and how the country's mineral riches may put it on the path to full independence from Denmark; Iceland's struggle, as a small North Atlantic nation, to maintain its identity in the face of growing international interest in the Arctic.

If you read this book, you will have a better understanding of other modern issues, when you hear about energy, climate change, and border disputes. It will also give you a connection to a region that few of us will ever visit, but which will possibly define our future. Superbly written and researched, and one of the most timely books that could be written in our age.
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