The dynamic of the latest large-scale socio-environmental upheavals in the Arctic has been associated with climate change. The panel organizers propose to examine adaptive and innovative community responses to changing circumpolar social and ecological conditions.
In the coldest climate inhabited by humans there has been constant need to navigate through environmental uncertainty as well as radical social change imposed from outside for centuries. As a planetary diver that is characterized by minimalist ecosystems, what happens in the polar regions (ice melt, methane release) not only has profound global implications but sweeps rapidly through local eco-systems. The dynamic of the latest large-scale socio-environmental upheavals in the Arctic has been associated with climate change. The presence of fossil fuels that can only be accessed through high-risk measures (off-shore drilling, frackking) has intensified long-term tensions between economic interests in non-renewable resource development, commitment to sustainable renewable subsistence resources and ecological anxieties about the implications of such developments. In order to facilitate the human capacity to navigate through environmental risk and social catastrophes, it is important to understand and evaluate available socio-cultural mechanisms that have the potential to activate resilient responses to a range of critical situations. There is an urgent need for scientists across disciplines, in collaboration with other actors, to develop adaptive responses to socio-environmental change incorporating local expertise effectively and responsibly. The panel organizers propose to examine innovative community responses to changing circumpolar social and ecological conditions. Thus although the original impulse is driven by anthropologists with wide-ranging Arctic experience, the primary aim of this panel is to facilitate a cross-regional and multi-institutional discussion of local knowledge and experiences related to social risk and community action at the time of dramatic climate change.