contribution by Igor Krupnik and Grete Hovelsrud, members of the IPY Joint Committee, in celebration of People Day on September 24th, 2008
Also contains contributions by Michael Bravo, Yvon Csonka, Ludger Müller-Wille, Peter Schweitzer, Birger Poppel, Peter Schweitzer, and Sverker Sörlin
One of the key tasks of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008 articulated in its many documents is to advance our understanding of the nature and behavior of the polar regions and of their role in the functioning of our planet. It is widely recognized that the polar regions are now changing much faster than other regions of Earth, with remarkable implications for local environment, people, economies, infrastructure, and for the world at large. This is why the IPY 2007–2008 has such a strong interdisciplinary emphasis, with an active focus on human and societal issues related to the polar regions. For the fist time, the IPY science agenda includes a special research theme with a goal “to investigate the cultural, historical, and social processes that shape the sustainability of circumpolar human societies, and to identify their unique contributions to global cultural diversity and citizenship.” The IPY 2007–2008 program features over 30 large international projects (See Appendix – List of IPY projects) and numerous initiatives by individual participating nations that focus on Polar People, especially on their community and cultural well-being, health issues, and the role of the polar regions in local and global economies, policies, and governance. Overall, the social/human studies now account for more than 20% of all scholarly activities in this IPY and, perhaps, a third of its public and educational impact.
IPY also serves as an important driver in the growing partnership between polar residents, researchers, educators, media and outreach specialists. Many polar residents also see IPY 2007–2008 as the first major international science venture to which they have been invited and one in which their environmental and cultural expertise is valued and promoted. This growing partnership between scientists and polar residents is widely viewed as a cutting edge of today’s social/human research in the polar regions and as a true hallmark of this IPY.
This IPY is taking place at the time when combined effects of modern climatic, environmental, economic, and social change challenge the resilience of many Arctic communities and when polar residents, IPY researchers, and public at large address the future of the polar regions from new societal, humanistic, and environmental perspectives.
photo: Christian Morel
Social/Human Sciences in Earlier ‘International Polar Years’
All previous International Polar Year initiatives in 1882–1883, 1932–1933, and, particularly, the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957–1958, were framed primarily, if not exclusively, as geophysical programs focused on meteorology, atmospheric and geomagnetic research, and later, glaciology, geology, space studies, ocean, and sea ice circulation. We have hardly any record of polar residents’ involvement in previous IPYs, other than serving as guides, manual laborers, unskilled assistants, or being prospects for ethnographic and natural history collecting. None of these earlier IPY ventures organized primarily by meteorologists, geophysicists, and oceanographers considered the documentation of polar residents’ use and perspectives on their home environment a valid topic for scholarly research.
Nonetheless, social scientists and polar residents can claim an IPY legacy of their own that goes back to the first IPY of 1882–1883. Four seminal ethnographic monographs, including three on Arctic indigenous people, as well as several chapters in expedition reports, scores of articles and books about polar people were published as direct outcomes of the first IPY. Half of the first IPY-1 observational stations produced substantial, often extensive, accounts on local populations and their cultures. Many were illustrated by early photographs and drawings of local communities, people, and landscapes and accompanied by substantial ethnographic collections. Today, these records are treasures to researchers and educators, but even more so to polar residents as precious cultural and heritage materials.
There is no wonder that those old books—such as monograph by Franz Boas on the Central Inuit of Arctic Canada (1888/1964), by John Murdoch on the people of Barrow, Alaska (1892/1988), by Lucien Turner on the Inuit and Innu of Ungava Bay, Canada (1894/2001), and by Sophus Tromholt on the Sámi of northern Norway (1885)—remain, perhaps, the most widely cited publications of the IPY-1 program. They are also the only science products from the first IPY that are being read and used by polar residents to these days.
photo: Lars Poort
Polar Residents and IPY 2007–2008
This IPY 2007–2008 is taking place in a totally different era. Scientists doing research across the polar regions are now interacting with the new cohorts of educated, inquisitive, and technologically and politically astute local residents. Many polar regions, particularly in the Arctic, now feature modern schools, computer and Internet communication, and highly literate youth interested in science, technology, and higher education.
Polar science has also changed dramatically since the era of IGY 1957–1958. Many large interdisciplinary programs of the past decades, particularly in ecosystem, biodiversity, human health, and climate change research have paved the way to the new level of inclusion of polar residents in science work. Polar people are now well aware of the great value of science; they are anxious to put the scholarly data to the advancement of their communities, education and health services, protection of environment, and sustainable use of local resources. This new face of IPY 2007–2008 is thus a culmination of many trends and factors that have also changed polar science. The transformation is clearly evident in this IPY logo, compared to the one used by IGY 1957–1958 fifty years ago:
Many public materials created by the IPY 2007–2008 science and outreach activities, even this ‘People Day,’ the first ever in the history of IPY initiatives, are testimonies to that remarkable new trend.
It is not surprising that IPY 2007–2008 program initiated an unprecedented response among Arctic residents and indigenous people. All major organizations that represent Arctic residents, such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich’in Council International, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Sámi Council, as well as many ‘umbrella’ bodies, such as the Arctic Council, Indigenous People’s Secretariat and others are actively involved in IPY 2007–2008 and its individual projects.
Indigenous involvement in IPY 2007-8 projects. More IPY charts
Last month, a major IPY-related event, the 6th International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS-6) took place at Ilisimatusarfik/The University of Greenland in Nuuk, Greenland. It featured numerous papers on IPY 2007–2008 science and educational activities and 11 special sessions focused on individual IPY projects.
photo: Livia Monami
Building Social/Human Science Legacy in IPY 2007–2008
If we are to view IPY 2007–2008 as something that happens once in a lifetime, a science opportunity ‘of fifty years,’ this IPY has already created a special legacy of its own. It includes: the new understanding of the role of societal and human agents by polar scientists and public at large; emerging recognition of the importance of social/human studies in the polar regions by agencies and governmental research programs; and the inception of many new science and educational initiatives operated jointly or primarily by polar residents. We believe that social/human scientists and polar people proved to be fully engaged and committed members of the IPY interdisciplinary team, with their distinctive field in the IPY 2007–2008 program. This new field expands so-called ‘hard-core’ IPY science missions in geophysical, environmental, and planetary research. That combination of strengths will likely be the key to ensure the legacy of IPY 2007–2008 in a wider societal context for decades to come.
Like other polar scientists, we are wondering what the lasting legacy of IPY 2007–2008 will be. Each of the earlier IPY/IGY initiatives resulted in a new level of collaboration and understanding that went far beyond individual disciplinary achievements. The First IPY of 1882–83 witnessed the first coordinated international research effort in the polar regions organized by several countries fractured by political and economic alliances. By the Second IPY of 1932–33, the world’s political antagonism was even more explicit; but the IPY 2 program, nevertheless, made a huge step forward in both its science scope and the number of countries involved. The IGY of 1957–58 took place against the backdrop of the Cold War; still, it gave birth to a new model of Antarctic governance based on international agreements and the ethics of scientific cooperation.
A crucial achievement for IPY 2007–2008, we believe, would be to articulate common interests among scientists, polar residents, other actors, and the needs of the world at large. Much as IGY 1957–1958 helped establish a new paradigm of a common responsibility over the world’s southern polar regions, IPY 2007–2008 may offer a comparable opportunity to forge new social and ethical paradigms in Arctic partnerships. Specifically, it may help articulate the principles with which collective action can be achieved across a wide range of issues, including collaborative research, sustainable development, co-management of natural resources, local governance, and national policy-making.
There is additional urgency to this mission that comes from the unprecedented speed of change, both environmental and social, across the polar regions. There is a strong argument today that, in the face of rapid social and environmental change, investing in collaborative management, shared institutions and regimes, and in local players, is our best strategy to increase the resilience of human-environmental systems, both globally and across the polar regions. Social/human scientists and polar residents are to act as key partners in achieving these goals—in IPY 2007–2008 era and beyond. This is the legacy we may pass to the next generations and to the future planners of the next IPY to safeguard and to explore.
What is IPY
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 19:38
Social/Human Sciences in IPY 2007–2008: A New MissionWritten by Guest Contributor
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