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POLAR ENCYCLOPÆDIA

HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY

The Arctic today

Living in the Deep North today

Today, more than 2 million people live north of the Arctic Circle. Towns have grown up near mining facilities, along the rivers and on the coasts. But because the Arctic climate is so harsh, very few people from further south settle permanently in the Arctic. Usually they move back to warmer zones after a few years.

Natural resources under the ice

Despite the extremely harsh climate, engineers, miners and a host of other workers spare no effort or imagination to extract from this inhospitable landscape all the varied riches in the earth and the sea: oil, gas, coal, iron, copper, nickel, gold, diamonds, etc. However, for the people who live there, and tourists as well, the Arctic landscapes are also a source of food, of natural beauty and the freedom of wide-open spaces…

Where two worlds collide

The people who live in the Deep North all belong to one sovereign state or another, states that colonised the zone in the past and within which these native peoples form a minority. The cultural and economic shock of contact with the “modern” world has in many cases had a dramatic impact on their society (alcoholism, crime, suicide) and in all cases has affected their lifestyle, customs, beliefs and traditional activities.

Towards sustainable development

Little by little, the people of the Arctic have been joining forces so as to be better represented on national and international bodies. They are claiming and obtaining a larger share of the revenues derived from natural resources within their territories and some have even gained a measure of autonomy (Danish Greenland, Canadian Nunavut). But the survival of their cultural identity is closely dependent on respect for their fragile environment.