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The Future History of the Arctic Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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Energy-Musings.com, June 8, 2010
“The Future History of the Arctic is well researched and written. It is based on extensive interviews conducted by the author that provide information supporting the book’s themes he explores. The book is an easy way to grasp the significant issues and their context that have shaped and are continuing to shape the politics of the Arctic – one of the last great energy frontiers remaining on the planet. While the current U.S. offshore drilling moratorium is a setback for Alaska drilling, the issue of what drilling and how it is done in the Arctic region – in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway, Greenland and Iceland – will become front page news in the not too distant future. We urge you to consider adding Mr. Emmerson’s book to your summer reading list.”
“As the Arctic thaws, nations around the globe are jockeying for access to its mineral resources and potentially lucrative new shipping routes. With considerable on-site reporting, Emmerson surveys the environmental and geopolitical changes under way.”
“Charles Emmerson’s The Future History of the Arctic has the strongest narrative of the three [books on the Arctic] because his is most firmly grounded in a knowledge of the region’s past.”
E, the Environmental magazine
“This new vision of the Arctic, as a site of exploitation and source of political conflict, is chilling indeed.”
“Charles Emmerson has written a superb book, which seamlessly intertwines travelogue, history and jargon-free analysis… The Future History of the Arctic is as reviving as a blast of polar air, bringing the Arctic into wonderfully clear focus; one of the most impressive accounts of the contemporary Arctic I’ve read.”
The Financial Times
Winnipeg Free Press
“Emmerson produces the most comprehensive analysis… All three are to be commended for their crisp, easily digestible prose, for their clarity and for their avoidance of sentimentality or over-obsessive attention to detail.”
“Charles Emmerson's The Future History of the Arctic is a much broader survey of the international Arctic, written to dispel European myths of a tranquil kingdom, with strong sections on Russia, Greenland and Iceland.”
About the Author
Top customer reviews
This is a testament to his skills not only as a master of geopolitical affairs but as a storyteller. He introduces self-deprecating humor to serious situations. He brings touching insight to his interviews with people. He brings humility to the human affairs of poor communities in remote landscapes.
Future History of the Arctic is, at its core, less about a cold analysis of strategic imperatives and fateful policy decisions than it is a story about the fears and aspirations of individuals, the ones who have, and will, and must make hard decisions, based on what they see as their own self interest. He succeeds to the extent that he makes their self interest our own. We become individuals who must weigh in on decisions, knowing they affect us all.
We see the potential for the Arctic to become governed peacefully and carefully, much like its southern polar counterpart; we also see the potential for it to become a cold and depopulated global version of Somalia.
Thanks to his narrative skill, Emerson does not push us in one direction or the other, he lets us find our way there on our own as his voice is seen nowhere and felt everywhere. A bravura accomplishment.
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.
Emmerson sees the Northwest Passage as taking longer to develop than some interpretations. With open seas shipping lanes through the Arctic, distances between trading partners may be cut sharply. He points out that even if the ice does melt, that weather is very difficult for ships and may hinder any developments. The future may well see increasing Chinese interest, with unknown consequences. And with such a large portion of the Arctic in Russia, the stability of Russia becomes an important element for the future. Russian energy exploitation of the Arctic has been huge, but not efficient and something of a disaster for the environment. As yet undeveloped energy resources may be very large, and there would be no concerns about politics of an unstable Middle East--although competition among the Arctic nations could lead to conflict. The Russians and Americans are the heavies of the future, with Canada as a medium and Scandinavia as lighter weights. Then there are the native peoples.
Because of my personal interest, I was particularly interested in the portions about Greenland. A Greenland with true independence from Denmark will probably be the most important voice for actual natives of the region.