A couple of weeks ago NPE’s Ilona wrote a post shedding light on what takes place behind the scenes when international conferences are being organized. This post takes the opposite view: here’s a participant’s report of the Calotte Academy 2013 experience.
Conference trips offer researchers a welcome break from the office routines and a chance to keep up to date with the latest work done by others; in addition, they are also important social events. This is especially true for the Calotte Academy, an international travelling symposium ‒ or, as nicknamed by its participants, the travelling circus ‒ arranged annually since 1991. The Academy is indeed no ordinary conference; instead, it is a week-long road trip around the North Calotte in a tour bus loaded with academics.
This year’s Calotte Academy took place between 17-23 of May in Rovaniemi and Inari, Finland, Troms, Norway and Kiruna, Sweden, with a focus on the theme Energy security - Resource geopolitics. The participant list of the event was both international and multidisciplinary; the whole tour was taken by both senior researchers and PhD candidates even all the way from Canada, Iceland, Austria and Russia with academic backgrounds in political sciences, geography, sociology and law. In addition, many of the seminar sessions were joined by representatives of local companies, municipalities and other interest groups who offered a stakeholder input to the multidisciplinary academic debates.
The theme of the conference was conceived and addressed broadly, not taking neither energy nor security as a given. Among other issues, presentations and debates focused on both conventional and renewable energy resources and (energy) security both in conceptual terms as well as in local and state contexts; in addition, the interconnections, synergies and contradictions between other forms of land use such as mining, reindeer herding and renewable energy development were touched upon. Moreover, viewpoints focusing on historical accounts, public participation procedures and indigenous peoples’ rights were highlighted during the lively conversations.
Alongside the seminar sessions also visits to local sites of interest were included in the program – among others, the group got the chance to visit a reindeer farm in Inari and to hike and spend a night in the highlands of Abisko national park. Evenings were spent eating well, having a sauna, swimming in the ice-cold waters of Lake Inari and sitting in front of the television watching ice hockey and ‒ of course! ‒the Eurovision song contest. The proverb stating that it’s the journey that matters, not the destination, is more than appropriate for describing a tour where around 30 hours was spent travelling in a bus. Luckily, the sunny weather with 20 degrees and good company made even the 4-hour wait on a Norwegian road blocked by a spring landslide feel like a picnic with friends!
Text by Hanna Lempinen