A region under pressure
7 September 2021
WHEN I STARTED working with WWF in fall 2017, one of the first meetings I attended was about the organization’s plans for the two years leading up to what it was calling “the Super Year”: 2020 was seen as a critical year in the history of our planet, a time when countries around the world would achieve important targets to prevent biodiversity loss and finally articulate their plans to reduce carbon emissions for a healthier planet.
But the factors that created the need for a Super Year in 2020 have not gone away. In fact, it is now even more urgent that countries take swift and concrete actions to stop the loss of diverse life on this planet and the impacts of the climate crisis, particularly in the Arctic.
Just last month, the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Declaration warned us that Arctic warming is no longer happening twice as quickly as the rest of the planet: it is happening three times as quickly. To understand what pressures this accelerated temperature rise is creating for the people and species who call the Arctic home, we decided to share a range of stories in this issue of The Circle that document the sources of some of these pressures—along with their consequences and some possible responses.
Several of the articles explore the pressures of industrial activities on the Arctic, from dramatic increases in underwater noise from ship traffic to how resource extraction and growing infrastructure threaten wildlife and communities. We also explore possible solutions to alleviate those pressures, from transforming our energy sources to educating people to building stronger relationships across generations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us in a visceral way that people are a part of nature, and that while our interdependence can be our greatest vulnerability, it can also be our greatest strength. Many important climate related meetings that were planned for 2020 have been rescheduled for this fall. Let’s hope that the mounting pressures faced by the Arctic are foremost in the minds of global leaders as they figure out how to rebuild and restore this beautiful planet.
This will be my last issue as editor-in chief of The Circle. I have viewed this magazine as WWF’s way of facilitating an engaging, diverse and informed conversation about the Arctic through storytelling. Overseeing that conversation has been one of the greatest pleasures of my job.
I have loved working with the editorial and production team for The Circle. They are smart, creative and dedicated to making this magazine a great read every time. I want to thank the many contributors who share their stories with us for free because they love the Arctic and want to be part of our ongoing dialogue about how best to conserve it. And of course, I want to thank you, the readers, because without you, there is no way these quarterly conversations could spark real change. My colleagues at WWF have inspired me every day with their commitment to change the world and make it a better place. They believe it can’t be done without ensuring a healthy Arctic. Let’s all continue to support this cause—for ourselves, for the Arctic and for the planet.
Senior Manager, Communications
WWF Arctic Coordinating Team
Located on the northern tip of Canada’s Baffin Island, Baffinland’s Mary River Mine produces 6 million metric tonnes of iron ore every year. It’s already the biggest industrial development project in the Canadian Arctic, but the company wants to more than double its production. Inuit in the area are concerned about the effects, and a public hearing has been taking place in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet.
Many people have the impression that water is widely available to everyone in the Arctic. They would be surprised to learn that actually, rural Alaskan households often lack sufficient access to the water they require for their daily needs. Antonia Sohns explains.