Politics, media misinformation and #sealfie – 2014 Arctic Year in Review (Part 2)

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About 30 people gathered in Iqaluit to shoot a pro-seal hunting #sealfie to protest a $1.5 million donation from funds raised by Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie to the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that fights seal hunting. The photo was just one of such images to flood social media in 2014. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)
The West Alpha rig, used in the ExxonMobil, Rosneft partnership in the Kara Sea. The Norwegian owned rig left the site when a ban on assisting Russia with deep sea or Arctic offshore oil drilling came into force this year. (Rosneft)
Greenland’s flag in Nuuk’s Old Town in 2010. The country's snap election this November grabbed the attention of investors and business interests around the world. (Eilís Quinn/Eye in the Arctic)
A Russian fishing boat enters the northern port of Murmansk in Kol’skiy (Kola) peninsula on the Barents Sea in 2010. Traffic on the Northern Sea Route dropped significantly in 2014. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
With the year almost over,  Eye on the Arctic  continues its look  at back at 2014  with some of our Eye on the Arctic experts from around the globe.

Last week in Part 1, we looked at the Arctic Council, indigenous issues and energy with Heather Exner-Pirot, managing editor of Arctic Yearbook.

Up today in Part 2, we talk politics, media misinformation and #sealfie with Mikå Mered, a political analyst and CEO of Polarisk Group, a research and political risk consulting firm specializing in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Mikå Mered, a political analyst and CEO of Polarisk Group. (Courtesy Mikå Mered)
Mikå Mered, a political analyst and CEO of Polarisk Group. (Courtesy Mikå Mered)

Eye on the Arctic: How would you sum up Arctic news this year in just one word?

Mikå Mered: ‘Misinformation.’  Many people report on ‘The Arctic’ when they should actually talk about the ‘Barents Arctic,’ the  ‘Alaskan Arctic’, ‘Nunavut’ and so on. There’s also a huge difference between offshore developments and onshore ones. There’s isn’t one Arctic, there are many. But that’s not something we see out there when we read coverage about Arctic issues.

What were the three most important Arctic stories of 2014?

1) Pobeda oil fields: That oil field was the one discoved by ExxonMobil and Rosneft in September off the Russian coast. For the first time oil could be struck offshore in the Kara Sea. It was a Russian-American joint-venture. Given what’s happening now between the West and Russia, this discovery  will be key for the geopolitics of oil in the Arctic.

2) Greenland’s snap election: There was a misuse of public funds by the former Greenlandic prime minister Aleqa Hammond. That led to her fall and a snap election on November 28. If you talked to Greenlandic media or Greenlandic analysts, they predicted two or three weeks before the election who would win. If you talked to Danish specialists, most of them didn’t foresee the result. What I’m trying to emphasize here is that there’s a broadening gap between Greenland and Denmark, although they’re still part of the Danish realm.

3) #Sealfie Movement: The #HuntSealEatSealWearSeal‘ hashtag  was a big thing in the first part of 2014. For once, people from the South could understand at a broad level what’s actually happening in the North and could hear the voices of the people in the North. So the #sealfie movement was one of the key things in the North American Arctic for 2014 and one of the most importation cultural features this year.

What was the most overlooked northern story or issue of 2014?

1) Poor Northern Sea Route season: Compared to last year when there were 71  cargo ship transits, the numbers fell down to 23. The cargo tonnage decreased 75 per cent compared to last year. I’m not saying this decrease was triggered by geopolitics or by sanctions against Russia, there was just too much ice on the Northern Sea Route. This was  poorly reported in the international media and even some Arctic media.

2) The Arctic Economic Council: This is a feature of the Canadian Arctic Council chairmanship but not a lot of people talked about it. It’s one of the first pan-Arctic forums for economic affairs. But beyond the Arctic community it didn’t get much traction.

3) Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: It’s a publication by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), a working group of the Arctic Council. They’ve done a seven year report to assess Arctic biodiversity. It’s more than 600 pages and nobody talked about it. Actually, it’s some of the best work the Arctic Council has produced so far.

What will you be watching for in 2015?  

1) Russia’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf: Canada, Russia and Denmark are competing for claims to the North Pole and this is an important feature of Arctic politics. So when Russia submits its claim to the UN in March 2015 , this will be something to watch for.

2) General elections in Finland, Sweden and Canada: If there’s change in governments,  those states’ Arctic policies could change as well.

3) EU’s first official Arctic Strategy:  What’s going to be tricky is to see the response of EU member states that are Arctic countries: namely Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

The above Q&A has been edited and condensed.

Listen to the full Eye on the Arctic feature interview with Mikå Mered below:

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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