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May 14, 2009
Q&A: Ask your questions on polar politics

Once considered a frigid wasteland, the Arctic is melting faster than any other region on earth and revealing its hidden treasures in the process, from oil to new shipping routes.

A race for control has broken out as the Arctic emerges as a region of vital economic and military importance. It is estimated that the Arctic holds nearly a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

Nations are furiously mapping seabeds, vying for sections of continental shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, set up to determine offshore boundaries. The U.S. has not ratified the Law of the Sea and therefore cannot file claims. 

But in addition to nations’ self-interests, the complex environmental, business and governance questions surrounding the Arctic may also necessitate more international cooperation. 

Thank you for your questions.’s weekly radio show explored polar politics. Worldfocus anchor Martin Savidge hosted a panel of guests:

McKenzie Funk is a writer for National Geographic and Harper’s Magazine who has reported extensively from the Arctic region. His recent article, “Arctic Landgrab,” reported on an icebreaking mission that mapped a portion of the Arctic Ocean floor. His book about climate change, “Best Laid Plans,” will be published by The Penguin Press.

Jessica Shadian is a senior research fellow at the the High North Center for Business and Governance in Bodo, Norway. Her research includes indigenous autonomy and Arctic governance as manifest in the work of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She co-edited a forthcoming book entitled “Legacies and Change in Polar Science: Historical, Legal and Political Reflections on the International Polar Year.”

Oran Young is a professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-directs the Program on Governance for Sustainable Development. He specializes in governance and environmental Institutions. He also chairs the scientific steering committee of the international project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. He has written more than 20 books, including “Arctic Politics: Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North.”

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