Even though Finland does not have an Arctic coastline, it does not affect my identity of being Arctic. By today’s climate indicators only a small part of Finland is counted as Arctic. I think that the ten-degree limit is no longer a good indicator either, because we live in a time of rapid warming, and the Arctic area decreases as a consequence of global warming and melting of the polar ice. The Arctic region is also going through such changes as emerging transport routes and increasing access to vast energy resources and mineral potential. At the same time indigenous peoples are afraid of losing their culture and language. Especially now it is time to recognize the concept of the urban Arctic, and its needs and importance as the patron of peace and diversity.
Finns need to find their northern intent and Arctic emotions. We should be proud of our Arctic expertise, and protect human rights and cultures in the North. In the publication Arctic Design – Opening the Discussion Tuija Seipell uses the term “Arctic hope”, since the Arctic seems to be full of hope; hope for a sustainable future, and hope for a better income, for example. Seipell points out what Arctic is: more of an idea, a condition and a lifestyle, and less of a specific geographic location. For her it is an adjective, a feeling, an emotionally charged assumption. For me it is a whole identity.
The flow of people in the Arctic regions is constantly growing. Part of it is based on emigration, part on immigration, part on the tourism industry and part on the growing interest of researchers. In my vision new cities and routes are created in the Arctic, and we should welcome them. The Nordic Council’s Framework Programme emphasizes the importance on investing in education, innovation and renewal, and flexibility to create sustainable economic and social growth. To do that, we need enhanced international cooperation and constant dialogue in the Arctic and between its inhabitants. The development of the Arctic in a sustainable and safe way is not possible without all countries participating – there is no room to exclude anyone from the Arctic identity.
I believe that the Arctic needs international cooperation now more than ever. Finland is willing to do her share in this regard – not least as the upcoming chair of the Arctic Council. If somebody still challenges my identity of being Arctic, I need to ask if they know how it feels to be part of something that you really believe in.