Clare O'Beara's Reviews > Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge

Future Arctic by Edward Struzik
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it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, travel, science, america-fact, environment-and-climate

This author is a 'journalist and explorer' according to this book but that doesn't begin to cover what is on his Linked In page. My recommendation would be to provide more background on the author so that we can see that he does indeed know his topic.

The book follows major patterns of change now visible and being studied by a wide range of Arctic scientists, from ecologists to fire scientists.

As the continent of North America warms and dries we see more wildfires; these are now spreading to the tundra and major tundra fires are expected to become frequent, by fire scientists. Permafrost is shrinking and shrubs are invading river deltas that dry up from lack of glaciers to feed them. Opportunist species such as coyotes are moving northwards, and some species will bring diseases or outcompete the threatened native Arctic wildlife. Reindeer and caribou are greatly reducing in numbers, so the indigenous people who subsist on them have no choice but to import and buy meats.

Change is not itself new or bad as the Arctic snow melt is uncovering bones of camels and beavers, and fossil redwood stands. But the precipitate rush of this change is giving species no time to adapt, and hungry nations are clamouring to seize upon land and ocean opening up to exploitation. Carefully managed extraction of fuels or minerals can provide jobs but outsiders frequently bring problems and cause environmental issues, and use industrial methods like factory ships and open-cast mining; besides which the sea level is rising.

We also get a strong look at the residues left by extraction firms, from mines to oil sands; the methods used require and contaminate immense amounts of freshwater which have to be left in holding ponds and never returned to the environment. Struzik tells us that along the Athabasca River, over one thousand trillion litres are being stored in concrete ponds up to 200 feet deep, covering about 200 square kilometres. A breach would be catastrophic.

What the Arctic Circle areas will look like into the future is being studied and conferences are held, such as the International Polar Conference in Montreal. Policy makers have to be well informed, given that Struzik expects a permanent summer seaway through the North Passage as early as 2040. Climate shift is causing many issues, and we all need to be prepared.

I can recommend this book to anyone studying ecology, the environment or geopolitics at late secondary or third level. For others who just want to inform themselves, the text is peppered with terms used by the interviewees such as boreal forest and mid-latitude marine environment, so a basis in the terminology is required to understand the contents easily (but readers can Google new words). The author was out in the field helping with fish and bird studies, so his impressions as well as the science are provided, making this a very human story and including the native dwellers' opinions.

Also recommended: Our Ice Is Vanishing by Shelley Wright; Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley; The Price of Thirst by Karen Piper.

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Reading Progress

October 14, 2014 – Shelved
October 14, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 2, 2014 – Started Reading
December 7, 2014 – Shelved as: non-fiction
December 7, 2014 – Shelved as: travel
December 7, 2014 – Shelved as: science
December 7, 2014 – Finished Reading
November 16, 2015 – Shelved as: america-fact
February 27, 2017 – Shelved as: environment-and-climate

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