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Arctic Sovereignty Disputes in North America Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2020


This paper will review and analyze five books by identifying their main themes and generalizations. In addition, the paper will conduct a comparative review of the main themes in a bid to generate new arguments through assessing the impact of each book. Ultimately, the paper will show that the books established consistency in their findings.

The first book is Northern exposure: powers, peoples, and prospects for Canada’s North by Frances Abele, Tom Courchene, France St. Hilaire, and Leslie Seidle. The contributors of this book focus on identifying the key sections of the public policy that can be improved in a bid to maximize the economy by realizing human capability in the Canada’s North. In the quest to further this objective, the book examines the themes of environmental preservation, public governance, sustainable growth, and community empowerment through education and developing Northern policy based on the future (Abel et al. 43). The book talks of the ability of the Northern population and particularly the aboriginal society and Inuit to negotiate land ownership and self-governance, which offers the chance to greater sufficiency. The enhancing political maturity encourages production firms to explore the available resources and grow the region’s economy.

However, the contributors identify that the impact of climate change on environment is holding back the efforts to achieve sustainable economy and improve the lifestyles of the community. The uncertain conditions of climate change in the Canada’s Arctic region are perceived to slow the development and growth in the Northern region. The authors underscore the impacts of governance across the region that is occupied by the aboriginal communities. The authors analyze the expected challenges that the Northern Quebec and Labrador regions must face in a bid to enhance economic growth and better life styles for the Northern residents (Ebinger and Zambetakis 37). This book challenges the Inuit people, leaders of first nations, and aboriginal activists to step up and strengthen their support to safeguarding the environment as well as sovereignty in the Arctic region.

The second book is After the Ice: life death and geopolitics in the new Arctic by Alun Anderson. The author provides a revelation to the world by identifying how the consequences of global warming are influencing Arctic transformation. Focusing on nations, local residents, animals, and the green environment, the author states that the activities of man contributing to global heating pose danger to sustainability of life in the near future. The author talks of the experiences of the Inuit living in the North and shares their troubled adventures through forced displacement and efforts to administer self-governance coupled with protecting the exploitation of the north by the international community, hence succeeding in regulating the effects of climate change.

The author gives insights into the troubled life of the indigenous communities, the effects of Arctic exploitation, and the neglect of the Inuit people (Alun 56). The region is only targeted for its gas and oil, but there are no policies to protect or recover the degrading environments for the sake of the local communities. With the evidence of the fast declining Arctic ice, the author expresses his concerns to minimize carbon emissions in a bid to slow greenhouse gas effects. The author describes the Arctic region as a region of diverse beauty of the ice parked scenery, but his worry is about the drastic effects on climate change affecting life in the northernmost region.

After exploring and interviewing people, the author gives an account of the damage to the indigenous scenery, suffering, and possible extinction of the polar bears, displacement, compelled change in culture, and lifestyle (Holmes 59). The author helps the readers to examine and understand the effects of climate change and factor out what can be done to slow the consequences of global warming. The author claims that the agenda to save the vast and crucial Northern region should be everyone’s priority. In addition, the author claims that conserving the degrading situation of the North region can be facilitated by empowering the indigenous communities by ensuring self-governance and establishing sustainable scientific policies (Ebinger and Zambetakis 44). This book comes out as insightful as well as educative since the author delves deeper to different perspectives that have been overlooked for a long time such as the role of the indigenous communities in the North region. In addition, the author shows the hopeful possibilities in slowing Arctic transformation, hence avoiding fast environmental degradation.

The third review is on Michael Byers’ work, Who owns the Arctic? Understanding sovereignty disputes in the North. The author has done research programs in the Arctic and he provides elaborate report and advice concerning the implications on the usage of the Northwest Passage. The main theme by this author focuses on determining the sovereignty in the North, which he claims to influence the climate change in many ways (Holmes 56). For instance, Byers talks of the Exxon Valdez tanker of Alaska that hit a reef and spilled large volumes of crude oil into the water, thus terminating huge numbers of aquatic life. This event also altered the lifestyles of the people living around, particularly those that depend on fishing for food sustenance (Charron 89).

The author argues that the new navigability will promote frequent passage of oil tankers since it saves time and transit fees. The author claims that the Northwest Passage cannot be taken as an international strait as it is claimed by many states seeking passage (Byers 46). The author challenges Canada to take charge and address the sovereignty issue by controlling shipping via the Northwest Passage by determining who sails where and what goods are transited. The author claims that controlling the passage protects the Northern environment, hence promoting the welfare of citizens residing in the north.

The author argues that the Canadian policymakers should embark on empowering the Inuit who occupy the North as a way of giving them the mandate to preserve the environments and better their everyday lives. Byers identifies that the historical existence of the Inuit on the Northwest Passage provides Canada with substantial claim of sovereignty for the Arctic region (Arnold 92). However, it is the mandate of the Canadian government to protect the Inuit by ensuring that their ancient practices such as hunting and fishing are not threatened by environmental degradation in the region. Despite the significance of the Inuit to the Canadian government claiming the sovereignty of the Arctic region, the author argues that the government of Harper decided to construct port in the arctic and did not consider Inuit views on the location.

Inuit interests of locating the port at Iqaluit were meant to ensure that the port served the intended purpose and at the same time uplifting the local economy. After a concise analysis by Byers, it becomes clear that the heating international competition for possession of important resources such as oil and gas can easily overwhelm the need to counter or slow the effects of climate change emerging from burning carbon. The author insists that governments of the Arctic countries can mandate individual nations to exercise sovereignty for the benefit of all. This well-articulated and concise work by Byers helps one to understand that all involved Arctic countries can benefit if a peaceful agreement is attained.

The fourth review focus on the Arctic front by Ken Coates, Whitney Lanckenbauer, William Morrison, and Greg Poelzer. The authors bring forth a timely analysis about Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic region. The authors insist that the concerns on the Arctic region are all behind global warming and the wellbeing of the occupants of the Northern region. The authors argue that states around the Arctic region such as Russia, the United States, and Denmark are not likely to recognize the Northwest Passage as within the Canadian waterways. The authors help readers to understand the potential threats that Russia pose to Ottawa in the near future if it continue to explore over and under the polar ice sheets (Coates et al. 65).

The authors argue that the reluctance of Canada to take control of the Northern region is because the arctic does not have significant political risks to the Canadian politics. The relatively inaccessible nature of the region has given less pressure to Canada. The authors predict that this aspect is ought to change since Canada has done less to integrate the North to the rest of the Canadian community in the south. The authors identify that the Canadian government has done little to better the economy of the North as opposed to the other regions.

This book criticizes the role played by the Canadian government for the benefit of the Inuit. The authors show that the interests by Canada government are less on humanitarian basis for the benefit of locals of the Northern region. The authors mention some events that show less the commitment of the Canadian government to engage in cooperative agreement with other Arctic countries in a bid to control the Arctic region and involve the locals in environmental conservation (Charron 88). For instance, the authors talk of the reactive mentality of the Canadian forces to threats concerning the North region. The Yukon Field Force, which was sent to the North during the Klondike Gold Rush and later withdrawn, shows what might be the trend in the future. However, the authors argue that this trend is ought to change since many countries seek free access to the region that they claim as an international strait.

The last review examined in this paper is Polar imperative: A history of Arctic sovereignty in North America by Shelagh Grant. The author’s main theme is based on the claims of sovereignty over the Northern polar region. The author talks of the effects of global heating and the consequences of resource exploitation on the native communities. Grant examines the activities and events that allegedly gave the greenlight to claim authority over the lands and waters in the Arctic of North America. The author gives an objective account of the Arctic experience, which allows the readers to have a deep view of the sovereign responsibilities that Canada has to assume concerning the northernmost region (Borgerson 77).

Grant argues that the Canadian government efforts to prevent pollution can be viewed as the right move towards claiming sovereignty over the northernmost region. The author is keen to communicate to the readers about the effects of pollution to climate change coupled with condemning the slow response overwhelmed by commercial interests by the Arctic countries.

The historical researcher, Shelagh Grant, provides the reader with insights about the 1968 US bomber that crashed near the Northern Greenland, as it remains unclear if all of the hydrogen bombs aboard were recovered. The inhabitants of the Greenland were denied the details of this event. According to the author, the damage of resources makes the indigenous people vulnerable to effects of causes, which they do not understand. This book provides a deep review of the native inhabitants and predicts fast progress if they can achieve self-governance, but the author holds that this goal might not be achieved soon due to the conflicting debates and interests of resource acquisition by the Arctic countries (Shelagh 20).

How the different books compare

It is very clear that the authors of the five books share most themes and they express almost similar sentiments. The theme of sovereignty is highly retaliated, as the authors agree that even though Canada might seem to have partial control over the Northernmost region, some states like the US do not recognize that the Northwest Passage lies under internal waterways of Canada. The authors also agree that the consequences of climate change are real (Shelagh 32). Failure to control human activities in the exploration and exploitation of resources in the Arctic region pose dangers of global warming. The five books insist on the importance of involving the native inhabitants in all matters concerning the Arctic region in a bid to ensure that their grievances are addressed and the activities taking place contribute to the growth of the native economy. In addition, the books share a common purpose of enlightening the readers by telling them about the history of the lives of Inuit coupled with what the future holds for the international community if the effects of global warming are not regulated (Borgerson 65).

However, these books differ slightly on some aspects about the events that enhance the Canadian sovereign claim over the Arctic region. For instance, Byers suggests that cooperation and agreement could help to solve the matter by mandating individual nations to control the Arctic region for the benefit of all. On the other hand, Grant claims that the Canadian efforts to put measures against pollution can be seen as a move to declare sovereignty over the Arctic region. The first review on Northern exposure indicates that the Northern region should be empowered to exercise self-governance and prevent exploitation from other regions.


The five books provide groundbreaking information on the events that surround the Northern Arctic region and their implications to the lives of its inhabitants. The themes of sovereignty, climate change, and self-governance are given priority since they are the major concerns for the Arctic countries and their citizens. This paper has established that the different authors have consistent findings, which gives the readers the belief to adopt and advance this knowledge. However, it is evident that most countries in the region are interested in acquiring the resources and dominating the northernmost region. Therefore, the Arctic countries should cooperate and agree on the best criteria to handle the issue of sovereignty and counter the effects of global warming.

Works Cited

Abel, Frances, Thomas Courchene, Leslie Seidle, and, France St-Hilaire. Northern Exposure: Peoples, Powers, and Prospects for Canada’s North, Ottawa: IRPP, 2009. Print.

Alun, Anderson. After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic, New York: Smithsonian Books, 2009. Print.

Arnold, Samantha. “Nelvana of North, Traditional Knowledge, and the Northern

Dimension of Canadian Foreign Policy.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal14.2 (2008): 95-107. Print

Borgerson, Scott. “Arctic Meltdown: The Economic and Security Implications of Global Warming.” Foreign Affairs 87.2 (2008): 63-77. Print

Byers, Michael. Who Owns the Arctic? Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010. Print.

Charron, Andrea. “The Northwest Passage.” International Journal 60.5 (2005): 48. -831. Print

Coates, Ken, Whitney Lackenbauer, William Morrison, and Greg Poelzer. Arctic front: Defending Canada’s interest in the far North, Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2008. Print.

Ebinger, Charles, and Evie Zambetakis. “The Geopolitics of Arctic Melt.” International Affairs 85.6 (2009): 32-121. Print

Holmes, Stephanie. “Breaking the Ice: Emergent Legal Issues in Arctic Sovereignty.” Chicago Journal of International Law 9.1 (2008): 53-323. Print

Shelagh, Grant. Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010. Print.

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