From Staples to Sustainability: Can Extractive Resource Development Lead to Sustainability in the Arctic?

A Joint Sustainability Research Project Panel at ICASS VIII: May 24, 13:30 to 14:30

Chris Southcott, Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA), Canada and Andrey Petrov, Arctic Frontiers of Sustainability: Resources, Societies, Environments and Development in the Changing North (Arctic-FROST), USA

Objective: This panel is being organized by individuals involved with the Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic and Arctic Frontiers of Sustainability projects. It includes four panelists who would be asked to comment on two key questions 1) what are the biggest obstacles to extractive resource development leading to sustainable communities in the Arctic, and 2) what can be done to ensure that resource development supports sustainability.


Importance of the issue: Despite earlier suggestions that a post-industrial society would lead to a decrease in the importance of natural resource extraction, over the past 20 years we have seen a boom in demand for commodities such as minerals and fuels. Increasing demand from newly industrializing nations means that demand for these commodities will increase over the next 20 to 30 years. Production in existing areas will intensify and expand into new areas such as the Arctic. Along with the recent boom in commodity production comes an increasing realization among socio-economic researchers that extractive industries are often problematic for producing countries, regions, and communities. Building on earlier Canadian staples theory, researchers have shown that, despite an intuitive belief that natural resource development will increase the wealth, and therefore the well-being of producing regions, a ‘resource curse’ exists.

The ‘resource curse’ literature may have emerged in the 1990s, but communities in the Arctic that have had to deal with extractive industries have known about it for much longer. Despite past problems with resource development, there is a great hope that the paradox can be resolved and that extractive industries can actually assist communities and regions to become sustainable. There is an increased belief that, properly managed, extractive industries can actually contribute to sustainability in the Arctic. At the same time there is no agreement on a variety of questions relating to how this can be achieved. How can resource extraction be best used to create successful sustainable societies? What are the best ways to avoid the staples trap/resource curse? How can resource extraction best contribute to the well-being of producing regions and communities while conserving their natural environment? What institutions best ensure that producing regions and communities benefit from resource extraction? These are complex questions that represent a challenge of global importance.


The Panel: We are proposing to have five individuals on the panel. One will be the moderator and will introduce the topic and the panel. The other four will address the two questions being proposed. Each will have 10 minutes to speak. The final 15 minutes will be reserved for comments from the audience.


Speakers are: 1) Lee Huskey, University of Alaska-Anchorage 2) Ken Coates, University of Saskatchewan 3) Pavel Sulyandziga,  RAIPON 4) Alona Yefimenko, Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat

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