At the heart of our project lies a framework and a methodology for research about the GlobalArctic in the age of the Anthropocene.

To begin with, the Arctic as a geographical region, roughly located North of the Polar Circle, is placed within the context of globalization: what happens at the global level in terms of climate change, technology, industrial development, as well as social and cultural change is not only affecting the Arctic; rather, it is transforming it. On the other hand, what takes place today in the Arctic, notably in terms of ice melting, resources exploration and exploitation, transport and urbanization directly affects the planet and accelerates the above global trends. Our underlying conceptual framework is thus one of Earth System Dynamics.

On this basis we devise a methodology to more systematically analyze the dynamics between the Global and the Arctic. The Global Arctic / globalized Arctic is interpreted here as a new geopolitical context, as well as used as a method of analysis.

More precisely we distinguish between four main dimensions along which these dynamics must can and should be studied:


Environment and Global Warming

The first dimension pertains to the environment as well as to global warming. On the one hand and since long, the Arctic has been a sink of global pollutants; but more recently the Arctic is directly affected by global warming, leading to increasingly rapid ice melt, permafrost disappearance and wildfires, among others. On the other hand, the changing Arctic not only accelerates global warming (albedo effect, methane releases, etc.) but alters the dynamics of the Earth System altogether (e.g., ocean currents, ocean salinity).

Natural resources and technologies

The second dimension pertains to natural resources, technologies and the corresponding infrastructures to extract them. On the one hand, the Arctic, not the least because the melting ice, becomes the theatre of natural resources extraction (e.g., oil, gas, coal, minerals, fisheries, forestry), accompanied of course by the development of corresponding infrastructures (e.g., oil platforms, ports). On the other hand, the exploitation of these Arctic resources extends the life of industrial civilization as we know it, characterized as it is by its unsustainability.


The third dimension pertains to economics, more precisely trade, transport and infrastructure. On the one hand, and as the ice is melting, the Arctic becomes an area of global commerce and trade, accompanied by transport infrastructures, notably ports, but also urbanization. On the other hand, the opening of the Arctic to transport and trade facilitates commerce on a global level along with further industrial development in the Arctic and elsewhere.

People, societies and cultures

The fourth dimension pertains to (indigenous) peoples, societies and cultures. On the one hand and as industrial and economic development reaches the Arctic, its societies and cultures are increasingly globalized and homogeneized. On the other hand, the Arctic loses its potential to provide alternative lifestyles, indigenous knowledge and “otherness” more generally.

Cutting across these four dimensions are the numerous actors which are shaping the dynamics in and of the Arctic. The most important types of actors are as follows:

Unified-States, in particular the 8 Arctic States and even more so the 5 Arctic rim States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States), But increasingly also other states are becoming important actors in the Arctic, notably the shipping nations, such as China, Japan and Korea, and France, Germany, UK, and also others;The Arctic Council, as organization of the 8 Arctic States and the 6 indigenous peoples’ organizations, as Permanent Participants, plus observer States and organizations;

International organizations, among which most notably the United Nations (UN) and International Maritime Organization (IMO);

Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), especially in the area of Oil, Gas and Minerals extraction;

Global and Regional Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as environmental organizations, and academic institutions and network.
All these actors – be it in competition or in collaboration – are shaping the current and future governance of the Arctic, as well as the outcomes along the above four dimensions. Potential research topics pertain not only to the Arctic-Global dynamics along the above four dimensions, but also to the roles the different actors (individually and collectively) play in these dynamics. The following topics are currently being researched as part of the GlobalArctic project:

Land-rush / land-grabbing, resources exploration and exploitation in the Arctic, including the role played by TNCs and SOEs


Arctic shipping and shipping infrastructures, including the role of non-Arctic States and corporations


The urbanization of the Arctic


Comprehensive security, including militarization, as related to the resources dynamics in and of the Arctic