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