Arctic Echoes

The reason I was angry with the media

28.2.2019 15:11

I was angry with the media for a long time. Many newspapers and news sites told us that there was a gold rush going on in the Arctic, in my opinion on flimsy grounds.

The Guardian and the BBC as well as other websites claimed that when climate change melts sea ice and reveals huge hydrocarbon reserves, the situation may escalate even into a military confrontation. The reason invoked was that states are trying to seize control of the seabed for themselves and for their businesses, and if the claims overlap, there will be conflict.

This was and still is a mistaken interpretation of what is happening in the region. The Arctic Ocean coastal states have developed their continental shelf claims under international law in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is no drama, and it is not likely to occur.

However, I am no longer angry with the media, in fact the opposite is true. It is great that we in the western liberal democracies have polyphonic media.

What made me change my mind? Populist strategies that try to smear the press as the source of lies. This way, in those countries where populists are gaining foothold they will have the luxury of giving interviews to the magazines and TV channels that they know will condone their error-ridden statements. President Trump is an extreme example of this phenomenon, but certainly not the only one of its kind.

So my anger towards the media has subsided as the world is changing. I am no longer worried if world affairs are not reported the way I as an expert would prefer. Now it is sufficient, if the reports are based on sources and at least aiming at some sort of truth. A major change in my world in a short time, but the surrounding world has also changed a lot.

In these times of populism, I think it is extremely important that we, as scientists, also participate in the societal debate. It is not self-evident that decisions would be based on research. This will require an effort from all of us, but it will be worth it!

Timo Koivurova

Research Professor, Director, Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland
Adjunct Professor in International Law, University of Turku, University of Eastern Finland

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Ayonghe 28.2.2019 22:11
Interesting indeed!
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