“When we talked to the communities about their research priorities, climate change wasn’t mentioned a single time” Chris Southcott, ReSDA project leader
In November Yellowknife is a nice fairy-tale winter town, the administrative centre of the North West Territories in Canada’s North, with around 20 000 inhabitants smaller than Rovaniemi. It hosted the first annual ReSDA workshop – a project worth knowing about in the Arctic! It is coordinated by sociology professor Chris Southcott of Lakehead University in Canada.
ReSDA translates as “Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic”.
Funded by Canada, it is one of the biggest Arctic Social Sciences projects, running an impressive 7 years between 2011-2017 with 2.5 million core funding, plus additional funding by partners. It includes 51 researchers from 20 universities in 9 countries. The project has a quite simple but tremendously important goal:
to reduce the negative impacts and costs of extractive resource development for Arctic residents, and increase the benefits for them.
From the University of Lapland two partners participate: Florian Stammler with the anthropology research team at the Arctic Centre, and Lassi Heininen from international relations.
The project is very special in many senses. One is that the leaders encourage a great degree of bottom-up openness and emphasize a lot of input by people on the ground. So on a circumpolar base, the idea is that Arctic residents tell us their own ideas about extracting resources on their homeland and reducing the costs as well as capitalising on the benefits. Remarkably, even in Canada the people on the ground did not mention a single time climate change as a research priority, as Chris Southcott mentioned, which is in line of what we found in Russia. The priorities are more towards increasing people’s wellbeing in the Arctic in many different spheres, and how the extractive industrial activity in the Arctic is a threat or an opportunity for this objective.
ReSDA will be built along four different areas, which are
1) sutainable communities
2) sustainable cultures
3) sustainable regions
4) sustainable environments
Within these four spheres, researchers will focus on measuring impacts, analyzing impacts, and dealing with the impacts of the extractive industry in the Arctic.
Given the source of the funding, quite a lot of the project will be focused on the Canadian Arctic. But there is a serious commitment to an integrated international perspective, and participants from Europe, besides us two from Lapland another six partners, are happy to be part of this.