Accepted paper:

An Anthropocene ethics for Arctic tourism?


Roger Norum (University of Oulu)
Berit Kristoffersen (UiT- Norway's Arctic University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at experiences of whalewatching tourism in Northern Norway to consider the contrasting ways in which Arctic spaces stand as at once emblematic of the Anthropocene and a threat to Anthropocene versions of human-nature planetary relationships.

Paper long abstract:

The Arctic is widely presented as the emblem of the Anthropocene. As a pure, wild and indigenous space, it is imagined from the outside as the destination for one of the last great wilderness adventures available on Earth. At the same time, it is the focus of intense political action, as one of the parts of the planet that yields the clearest patent indications of anthropogenic climate change, attracting scientists and environmentalists as witnesses to its material evidence, and politicians to employ it symbolically as an environmental credential. In this paper, we examine the entanglement of tourism with politics, geo-politics and human encounters in order to assess what kind of ethics is being adopted for an Anthropocene era, looking at the extent to which different tourism operators 'sell' an Anthropocene version of human-nature relationships in the Arctic. If the Anthropocene is a designation that brings primary responsibility for environmental change to humans, how can this be reconciled with increasing tourism and travel in the Arctic? How do ecotourism enterprises (e.g. whalewatching tours, aurora-safaris) seek to reconcile the contradictions of increasing tourism and increasing anthropogenic climate effects? This paper reconsiders the reliance on Enlightenment ideas of nature as external to the human condition, exploring instead the intertwined inhabited space of those who live in the region (Rybråten 2013), and their inherited knowledge practices such as those related to fishing sustainably (Dale, 2011, Stuvøy and Kristoffersen 2013) or travelling lightly.

panel P020
Polar mobilities: resilience and transformations (ANTHROMOB)