Winter is on its way and I can't wait. My latest footwear acquisition arrived yesterday - a pair of classic Sorel Caribou boots. These rate high in the nostalgia factor as I had the same boots as a kid in Prince George. Pity the once proudly Canadian brand is now US owned though.
While waiting to catch a bus downtown from my folks place in North Vancouver yesterday, a bus passed going the other way with a billboard ad on the side reading something like, "Etälä Suomen Lääni". It took a few moments for me to remember that I was actually no longer in Finland, so seeing Finnish text on the side of a bus should be rather unusual, to say the least. Marjo helped me track a version of the ad down, which is part of Diesel's rather questionable 'global warming' campaign. While Diesel's online content seems to show them wanting to promote awareness about global climate change, the underlying message in the ads seems to be "instead of trying to stop global warming, just go with it because the future will be hotter and sexier." This seems to be exactly the critique of Climate Change Denial, where we found this image. Then while on my way downtown, I noticed that a woman in front of me had a tattoo across the back of her neck in Inuktitut syllabics. Is this the successor trend to the cultural appropriations of tribal, Celtic, and the omnipresent Chinese characters by people with zero connection or actual awareness of the original cultures and contexts? In the wake of the near universalization of the Inukshuk in Canada, such as in the Vancouver 2010 logo Inuit culture seems to be wide-open for appropriation (no doubt going back to soap stone carvings and beyond). While it is possible that this woman was actually a pale Inuit, somehow I doubt it. It looks like "jiasika" to me. Any of my Inuktitut speaking friends care to translate for me?
Just came from the Nordic International Studies Association conference in Odense, presenting my "bucket" paper and now hanging out for the weekend in Copenhagen. The city is just as nice as I remember, and always lots of things going on (including a Caribbean carnival parade today). I missed out on Korean Palace two nights in a row, but just had a great dinner of roe and filet mignon at Restuarant Zeleste. One of the best meals in a long time. So until next week...
The final photo update from my spring travels comes courtesy of the Kola Peninsula, also known as the Murmansk Region of the Russian Federation. This was my fourth time bringing the Arctic Studies students on the Kola Excursion, and we had a great adventure as always. Of course, the views start to repeat themselves once you've done this trip half-a-dozen times, but who gets tired of looking at industrial deforestation? See the whole set here.
Only a few pics this time from the 'middle' trip to Akureyri, although it was actually the longest. I was invited to teach in the University of Akureyri's social sciences faculty, and gave lectures on community based research, Q method, socio-economic development in the North, and circumpolar international relations. I also gave a public lecture using an overview of some of the definitional issues around indigenous peoples in international relations and international law, based on my PhD research. Quite fun, although I had a nasty cold for most of the time. Hope I get to go back again soon.
I got back from some time in Inari last week and the highlight was a solo hike out to the PielpajÃ¤rvi Wilderness Church (PielpajÃ¤rven erÃ¤maakirkko). The church dates from 1760 and was in use until the end of the 19th century. Because of the early winter we've had in Lapland, the conditions were pretty great for the hike. Soft light, new-fallen snow, frozen ground, and ice forming on the lakes and streams. I took some pretty good shots, especially around the church and old settlement area as the sun started to break through the cloud. I also spotted a Three-toed woodpecker (pohjantikka) making its winter home. Check out the whole set.
So last fall I started experiencing my "Rovaniemi Renaissance" - it seemed that my adopted city was starting to feel fresh and cool again. We finally had a 'real' record store in the centre again (albeit the Free Record Shop chain) where I could browse a rather limited selection of overpriced CDs. A very cool cafÃ© opened (something that's been at the top of everyone's 'what Rovaniemi is missing' list). Life was good. Now it all seems to be crumbling away. On the same day that I walked through Sampokeskus to notice that they were boxing up the remains of the Free Record Shop, I read that our illustrious town council has decided to rename the main square Lordi Aukio in honour of own hometown Eurovision winners. A clear sign of the apolalypse. How much longer will KauppayhtiÃ¶ last in this cultural morass? My Rovaniemi Renaissance has descended back into the Dark Ages. So much for Enlightenment.
UPDATE 02/06/06: Returning to Free Record Shop it seems they haven't, in fact, shut their doors but merely reduced stock to essentially bargain bins and the last pop shmaltz. They might as well have closed.
Having just taken a scenic boat tour of Murmansk harbour a few weeks ago, today's story from YLE Lapin Radio caught my eye. Fossil fuel exploration and development in the Barents Sea and surrounding region means that Murmansk is poised to be a major hub for transportation of oil and gas. The Russian Federation just announced plans to invest millions of Euros to upgrade the infrastructure of Murmansk harbour, including rail yards, bridges and even a large commercial centre.
There seem to be a good number of Arctic-themed designs showing up at Threadless lately. The polar bear in the melting sea ice was a pretty nice image of global change in the Arctic. It's still not available, so get over there and start requesting it. But there is a similar idea with Where Can I Go? No sea ice = no polar bears. When I saw Ecotone, I immediately thought of Bruce. As much of his research involves looking at the effects of oil and gas development on reindeer herding in Siberia, what could be more perfect than this? Reindeer... oil refinery. Sure, it could just as easily be a caribou on the North Slope of Alaska, but same message, right?
Don't let Brucie down. He needs this shirt!
I've been playing around a bit with Google Maps and decided to mark up some points of interests on the Kola Peninsula for my students to explore before our excursion there in October. You can make out the piers of the naval bases of the Northern Fleet, and environmental damage from the nickel smelters in Nikel and Monchegorsk. Probably the coolest site are the secret early warning radar station and the huge surface-to-air missile base on the way to Lovozero. You can see my marked-up Google Map either here at NorthSpace, or the "official" version at the Arctic Centre. Let me know if you find any mistakes, or new interesting features.
According to Finnish national broadcaster YLE, Ikea started construction of its new store in Tornio-Haparanda yesterday (Monday, Aug 29). The bad news is that the store is now scheduled to open only at Christmas next year, not next summer as I had been led to believe. :( A spokesperson said that they expect one million visitors every year. Jesus, there are barely a million people in all of northern Sweden, Finland, and Norway combined. That said, I'm pretty sure every one of them will be visiting the Ikea store.
I hope Jay still thinks this is as cool as I do. I spent last week on a tour of the Kola Peninsula, leading a group of international students. While we were in Murmansk we somehow managed to get access to the very-off-limits Atomflot base to take a tour of a nuclear icebreaker. As we arrived at the base, I suddenly saw the Admiral Kuznyetsov, Russia's only remaining aircraft carrier loom into view. I snapped a quick photo from the bus, but we were strictly forbidden from taking photos inside the base where we were barely 50 meters from the behemoth.
Nevertheless, I took a spyshot out the window of the window of the icebreaker towards the Lotta, a floating base for spent nuclear fuel from submarines and icebreakers, and the surrounding storage area. You can check out all the photos from the trip in PhotoSpace.
I returned this week from an excursion to the Kola Peninsula with the Northern Resources masters program. I was the excursion's "academic coordinator," which basically amounted to me giving short background information on the various environmental disasters they would be seeing each day. And believe me, the Kola region has plenty to offer in that area. Nevermind the 200+ nuclear reactors, most of which are in out of service submarines, some in various states of being decommissioned. Or the Pechenganikel and Severonikel smelting operations that collectively pump something like 450,000 tons of SO2 plus assorted heavy metals annually into the air, resulting in massive forest devastation in the surrounding areas. Or the Kola Nuclear Power Plant, for which Bellona claims a 25% chance of meltdown on the two oldest reactors over their 23-year lifespan (these reactors are now 30 years old, and we heard had just been licenced for a further 5 years). Despite all this, I saw many signs of improvement in Murmansk and the rest of the Kola region, at least socially and economically. Living standards have visibly improved, (at least in Murmansk) and much of the Soviet-era service style has been replaced with western-style shops and restaurants. I'm not saying Russia's entry into the world of globalized western capitalism is inherently a good thing, but it is a demonstration of improvements in some areas. There are still huge economic disparities, and I know the Columbia Sportswear and MEXX shops in downtown Murmansk are beyond the budgets of most of its citizens, but they were but the top end of a general trend throughout the city that indicates a growing middle-class. This situation, however, was tempered by towns like Lovozero and Umba where there is literally no main industry (save for Lovozero's Swedish-owned reindeer slaughter house, which operates less than half the year) and most people survive by basic subsistence.