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After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic

Overview

An eye-opening look at the winners and losers in the high-stakes story of Arctic transformation, from nations to natives to animals to the very landscape itself

The Arctic—like the canary in the coal mine—has reacted more quickly and dramatically to global warming than many had anticipated. Hundreds of scientists are urgently trying to predict just how the Arctic will change and how those changes will in turn affect the rest of the planet. But plenty of other people, driven by...

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After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic

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Overview

An eye-opening look at the winners and losers in the high-stakes story of Arctic transformation, from nations to natives to animals to the very landscape itself

The Arctic—like the canary in the coal mine—has reacted more quickly and dramatically to global warming than many had anticipated. Hundreds of scientists are urgently trying to predict just how the Arctic will change and how those changes will in turn affect the rest of the planet. But plenty of other people, driven by profit rather than data, are interested as well. The riches of the world’s last virgin territory have spurred the reawakening of old geopolitical rivalries. The United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and the Danish territory of Greenland all control areas around the Arctic Ocean. We face a new era of oil rigs and drill ships, of tankers taking shortcuts from Yokohama to Rotterdam, as well as a potential fight over the Arctic’s treasures.

Alongside the winners from an open Arctic sea are the many losers, from the nomadic reindeer herders of Siberia and Scandinavia to the Inuit hunters of Alaska, Greenland, and Canada. Other creatures that rely on the vast expanses of sea ice, including seals, birds, and whales—and the ecosystems within which they live—may disappear to be replaced by different creatures.

Combining science, business, politics, and adven-ture, Alun Anderson takes the reader to the ends of the earth for what may be the last narrative portrait of this rapidly changing land of unparalleled global significance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For decades, scientists knew that the Arctic's summer ice had been slowly shrinking, but they did not anticipate that "an enormous area" would suddenly melt away in 2007: "Explanations kept changing as the Arctic sprang new surprises." Global warming in itself was not a sufficient explanation, nor was "Arctic Oscillation," fluctuating wind patterns that create changes in atmospheric pressure. Searching for answers, Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, travelled extensively in the region-"Svalbard, Alaska, Norway, the Canadian Islands and both Coasts of Greenland"-checking out a hypothesis that the Oscillation had formed thinner surface layers, which melt more quickly. Satellite pictures, combined with underwater submarine probes, tracked the motion of the ice over several summers, allowing scientists to "follow areas of ice as they moved... and track which ice survived," chart the effects of salinity variations, and more. Anderson also meets members of the Inuit community, traditional hunter- trappers who share "troubled stories" of forced relocations, efforts to preserve self-rule, and adapting to the realities of climate change. In this fascinating, insightful overview, Anderson asserts that the days of the "iconic big beasts of the Arctic" are numbered, but remains hopeful about the Arctic's uncertain future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Offering a fascinating look at the multifaceted effects of changing climate in the Arctic, Anderson, a distinguished science journalist and former editor of (and now senior consultant to) New Scientist magazine, summarizes his approach by noting that while science provides the heart of the future, people and creatures form the soul. Instead of stressing narrow topics, he presents a comprehensive, integrated portrait of the environmental, cultural, and geopolitical transformations occurring now and in the future. Examples of his appealing style include descriptions of reindeer herders in northern Russia in the vicinity of a major gas field, the stench of walrus breath, and the ecological consequences of replacing the polar bear with the killer whale at the top of the Arctic food chain. The description of how a shift in ocean temperature led Greenlanders to begin dancing the tango is a keeper. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in a clear and balanced global view of climate change but without the usual hysteria.—Roland Brosemer, Washington State Univ., Pullman
Kirkus Reviews
New Scientist senior consultant Anderson debuts with a dazzling account of the rapidly changing Arctic environment. Although the author lands a few punches on the near-sighted noses of those who deny global warming, he mostly ignores them and focuses on key factors in the change, significant consequences that continuing change would deliver and some good-news/bad-news ambiguities. All Arctic ice scientists and other northland specialists agree that the summer of 2007 was significant. More than 1.1 million square miles of ice turned to water, rapidly advancing the date when the Arctic could see summers virtually clear of all ice, a situation that would have dire consequences for wildlife now living in the region. Anderson begins and ends his narrative with polar bears, current monarchs of the Arctic. Without ice-ways to take them to their prey, particularly seals, they starve and retreat. Seals will also suffer, and warmer waters will bring southern fish species north, followed by the fishing boats that pursue them with such rapacity. Anderson blasts ineffectual government regulation of commercial fishing and lists the species that toothless policies have devastated. The author also examines the effects on the indigenous peoples living in the region, the geopolitics involved (who owns the Arctic? how are claims established or negotiated?), the difficulties of extracting the region's important natural resources and the potential devastation wrought by oil spills caused by greatly increased tanker traffic. The breadth of Anderson's research is exhaustive, and his conclusions are simultaneously convincing and frightening. A satisfying blend of graceful writing, riveting data, troublingparadoxes, alarming possibilities and chilling scenarios.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061579073
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alun Anderson began his career as a research biologist and has been the editor, editor-in-chief, and publishing director of New Scientist from 1992 to 2005, during which time he successfully launched the magazine in the United States. Previously he was the Washington DC bureau chief for the science journal Nature. Anderson lives in London but spends considerable time in the United States, where he is on the board of Xconomy in Boston.

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