Navigating the New Arctic (NNA):
Presenting The New Arctic Green Economy
As northern cities begin to build a new green economy, they will make major changes to their local industry and energy consumption. Workers will be needed to run the new factories, changing the demographic situation, putting new pressure on the housing market, and requiring new sources of food.
George Washington University acknowledges that it resides on the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Piscataway and Anacostan peoples, who have served as stewards of the region for generations.
Measuring Urban Sustainability in Transition (MUST) - NSF Award#2127364 (GW), 2127365 (UAA), 2127366 (UNI), and 2127367 (UVA)
Arctic industries are evolving to meet the needs of the twenty-first century with new technologies that will drive economic growth. State-of-the-art industrial activities, such as data centers and battery factories, will join transformed traditional enterprises in the mining and steel production sector, all drawing on a large expansion in renewable energy production and distribution. Northern Sweden symbolizes this trend most dramatically by attracting new economic actors with its extensive supplies of cheap and renewable energy, stable energy grid, cold climate, abundant land, strong connectivity, and stable political system.
The Arctic region faces exceptional challenges in the green energy transition. This poster showcased a portion of the indicators the MUST project is tracking to measure sustainable energy development among the case study cities and identify possible best practices that can be transferred among them. Luleå, Sweden, and the larger Norrbotten County, stand out for renewable energy generation by utilizing rich hydropower and wind resources. Sweden’s ambitious plan for renewable energy and electricity infrastructure point to a potential route for the larger Arctic community.
There are multiple drivers affecting demography in the Arctic. A long-term trend across northern Sweden and much of the Arctic has been the movement of residents away from distant rural areas into larger urban settlements in the north. At the same time, many people are leaving northern cities for urban areas in the south. Simultaneously, the development of a new green economy in the north is creating new demand for skilled workers and the larger infrastructure needed to support them and their families. The unemployment rate in Luelå is falling as new factories and infrastructure are being built. The city and larger region hope to attract as many as 20,000 new residents in the coming years as industrial production expands. This possible population influx will create new pressure on the local housing market and food supply chain.
The current housing crisis in urban Arctic communities is the consequence of varying social, economic, industrial, and systemic factors. High building costs, intricate zoning laws, and slim profit margins result in low rates of housing development, subjecting available units to price inflation, and limiting options for affordable housing. Yellowknife, Fairbanks, and Luelå serve as regional hotspots for urban migration and economic opportunity, especially for young individuals looking to explore career options outside of the smaller communities where they were raised. Facing low vacancy rates, unaffordable housing options, and perhaps difficulties with employment given that many traditional and formerly reliable industries are now struggling, the threat of homelessness poses a greater risk. To improve housing options, Arctic cities will have to balance investments in constructing new sustainable and resilient infrastructure, developing the economy and expanding employment opportunities, and restructuring policy to address social inequities that perpetuate disparities among underserved groups within the population.
Modern industrialization has fundamentally transformed Arctic food systems. Barriers to produce a sufficient amount of food to support northern cities results in a greater dependance on shipments from the south, therefore raising sustainability and safety concerns due to reliance on long-range transportation networks. To address these challenges, more Arctic cities are incorporating urban agriculture into the food systems in conjunction with traditional methods of subsistence food production. Our project investigates the numerous factors shaping the Arctic food system.