Arctic Futures: The Power of Ideas

  • Oran R. Young
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security book series (NAPSC)


That the Arctic is experiencing transformative change is no longer news. But what are the implications of this development with regard to matters of governance and policy? This article makes the case that the answer to this question depends on the paradigm or discourse we employ as a conceptual framework for interpreting the meaning and significance of changes in the circumpolar Arctic. It contrasts interpretations produced by observers whose thinking is rooted in the neo-realist/geopolitical paradigm with those offered by others whose thinking rests on a socio-ecological systems paradigm. Although journalists and popular writers tend to gravitate toward the neo-realist/geopolitical paradigm, those who possess a more intimate knowledge of recent developments in the Arctic are inclined to base their thinking on the socio-ecological systems paradigm. Because the assumptions and precepts of paradigms or discourses are not falsifiable, it is fruitless to try to demonstrate that one of the two paradigms is somehow superior to the other. Nevertheless, for those dedicated to preserving the Arctic as a zone of peace, the socio-ecological systems paradigm has strong attractions.


Methane Hydrate Arctic Council Multilevel Governance Popular Writer Great Game 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institutional and International Governance, Bren School of Environmental Science and ManagementUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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