The Arctic is demanding global attention. It is warming, melting, and thawing in a manner that threatens fundamental state-change. For communities that call the Arctic 'home' this is unwelcome. A warming Arctic brings with it the spectre of costly disruption and interference in indigenous lives and communal welfare. For others, the disappearance of sea ice makes the Arctic appear more accessible and less remote. This also brings with it dangers such as the prospect of a new era of great power rivalries involving China, Russia, and the United States. Submarine and long-range bomber patrolling are now commonplace. New terms such as 'global Arctic' are being used to capture the dynamic of change while others muse about the 'return of a Cold War'.
The reality is inevitably more complex. The physical geography of the Arctic is highly varied and variable. Environmental change brings opportunities for indigenous and non-indigenous life-forms to survive and even thrive. The Arctic's four million people are not helpless pawns in a game of global geopolitics. The Arctic is not only a resource hotspot but also a place where sustainable energy systems are being introduced. A warming Arctic with less ice and permafrost is not unique in the longer history of the Earth either.
The Arctic is a complex space. In this Very Short Introduction, Klaus Dodds and Jamie Woodward consider the major dimensions of the region and the linkages beyond – from the geopolitical to the environmental. They examine the causes, drivers, and effects of cultural, physical, political, and economic change, and ponder the future of the Arctic. As they show, it is a future which will affect us all.
1: Imagining the Arctic
2: Land, ocean, and ice
3: The Arctic biome
4: Arctic resources
5: The Arctic carbon cycle
6: Arctic governance
7: Future Arctic
Klaus Dodds is Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway University of London and Fellow of the Academic of Social Sciences. He is a Trustee of the Royal Geographical Society and a UK representative of the International Arctic Science Committee's Social and Human Working Group. He has travelled extensively around the Arctic and co-authored The Arctic: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Mark Nuttall, OUP, 2019), as well as authoring The Antarctic: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012), and Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2019, third edition). Between 2017-2020, he held a Major Research Fellowship (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) on the 'Global Arctic'.
Jamie Woodward is Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Manchester and a Fellow of the British Society for Geomorphology. His research explores how landscapes and people are impacted by environmental change from the Pleistocene ice age to the present day. He is the author of The Ice Age: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2014) and was a trustee of the Royal Geographical Society (2017-2020).