A PhD "summer" school in Greenland

2.10.2013 0:00

Not all of us NPE team members who attended the NRF conference in Akureyri, Iceland (see the post below by Ilona Mettiäinen) took the shortest route back home to Rovaniemi since another event highly relevant in terms of studying northern developments – the UArctic PhD Summer School on extractive industries in the North – was organized in Nuuk, Greenland. The summer school, arranged in conjunction with the NUNAMED medical conference, took place from 5th to 9th of September with a focus on the theme “Health, Society and Environment in relation to Large-Scale Industrial Projects”.

npe_blog_nuuk1.jpgThe five intensive days of sessions comprised of lectures and PhD paper presentations from various different academic fields ranging from health research to sociology, anthropology, political science and environmental sciences; however, what they all had in common was an interest on the manners in which issues related to planned and ongoing mineral development projects, especially large-scale ones related to oil and gas, are intertwined into broader societal questions of environmental, physical and social well-being, cultural integrity and socioeconomic developments in the context of the rapidly industrializing North.

Alongside the daytime programme, evening activities and social gatherings were an integral part of the summer school experience. During the first get-together with a group of visiting climate scientists, the ones who dared got the chance to try out some local delicacies including whale meat and blubber and musk ox while the official conference dinner programme included – besides for eating great food with hundreds of medical scientists – also traditional dancing, singing together in Greenlandic (!) as well as a concert by a local band.

Unfortunately during the trip Nuuk and the Greenlandic weather decided to disagree about the “summer” part of the school and tortured the town and the travelling PhD’s with non-stop rain and storm winds which made it unpleasant or practically impossible to spend time npe_blog_nuuk2.jpgoutside. Still, many brave participants did make use of the chance to go see a local drummer perform at the culture house and – miraculously! – for the only afternoon off the skies cleared and winds ceased and made it possible to go out on a boat trip around the fjords surrounded by the mountains to see the icebergs drift by in a weather so cold one could see their own breath. 

Although the storms returned on the same evening, the tiny red plane resembling a sardine can with propellers was able to take off nearly on time on the departure day. During the bumpy flight back towards Keflavik airport in Iceland, the skies cleared for once more and let Greenland show its beautiful sides – the ocean, fjords, mountains, glaciers and icebergs – to the PhD students returning home from their academic “summer” adventure.

Text by Hanna Lempinen 

Group photo credits: Klaus Georg Hansen