December 30, 2015
Today’s post is part of a series written by student bloggers from the AGU Fall Meeting.
By: Andrés Sánchez, National Autonomous University of Mexico
At AGU’s Fall Meeting this year I attended a session on “Exploring the Role of Arctic Science in Developing International Arctic Policy”. The session gave way to a very interesting morning, with people from all over the world and different points of view working towards the same goal. For this blog post, I’ll point out the most important things I learned.
First, John Eichelberger of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks illustrated how people from small towns in the Arctic regions, such as Anatuvuk Pass, Alaska, are useful in matters of climate prediction and in monitoring how things are changing in their communities. He posted some pictures of the small Alaskan town 10 years ago, and compared it with its current state – showing a completely changed landscape. He added that it’s crucial for there to not only be raw supporting scientific data, but also humanistic approaches with communities in order to solve large problems like climate change. For example, in the past decades the increase in boreal forest fires and floods has not only been a climatic anomaly, but has affected many communities in the Arctic. He mentioned, “ It’s not just lives and property, it’s health and well-being.”
Many of the other scientists at the session agreed upon the main points being discussed. These included that collaboration between countries is critical, that money should be used wisely, that information should be shared equally, and that work should lead to useful societal impacts. All of these ideas are part of what good Arctic science diplomacy looks like, but many still need to be applied, says Ester Sztein of the National Academy of Sciences. She outlined her view that “science should serve as a tool of diplomacy” as scientists represent their scientific disciplines, their institutions, their countries, and their cultures in their international interactions. Moreover, scientific data must be integrative with the goal of fighting back actual problems such as global warming. Ester mentioned a couple of important agencies that are doing important work on the Arctic such as; ARCUS, IASC, USARC, IARPC, where she expects that soon enough, collaborations and communications will be among them.
Additionally, Maribeth Murray of the Arctic Institute of North America mentioned that financial obstacles are one of the biggest problems these associations face. This is due to a lack of funding and minimal government investment. Moreover, the investments are not equally separated, and the allocation of investments becomes more of a social matter, she claims. Later on, Eli Kintisch of Science Magazine provided strong evidence in exploring these challenges that can threaten potentially innovative collaborations. So while there seems to be willing collaboration, funding remains a big issue for saving Arctic environments.
In conclusion, there are a variety of factors that need to be improved and applied for saving our Arctic environments. Collaboration, communication, funding, science and social views should collectively work together in order to make our planet a better and a healthier place.