For many in today’s generation, access to a good education and a variety of career opportunities are vital when we describe the good life. In several regions of the Arctic the frequency of permanent migration to gain access to these aspects is increasing. Many of the migrators are young, and predominantly women. This leaves too many societies with an ageing population and a surplus of men. This is not sustainable development.
I have experienced being a young, ambitious female inhabitant of a small community in the Arctic Norway, thinking that my only route to create my good life was to become a “knowledge refugee”. I went to Oslo, the capital of Norway, with no plan of returning. What made me change my mind? A challenging job opportunity and an excellent education, both situated in the Arctic. If those had not existed, I would not have come back.
We talk about the brain drain and high dropout levels in Arctic communities, but the research and discourse tell us of the problem, not of the solutions. I scanned the Arctic Social Indicators report from 2014. The word “development” appears over a hundred times. The words “possibility”, “attractive” and “creation” appear seven times in total, but not once in relation to the word “jobs”.
People are the most important resource of this region. It is time to empower the people of the Arctic to build attractive, sustainable societies. We have to share knowledge of how to build businesses to the youth seeking possibilities. We can increase the quality, number and relevance of local schools and knowledge hubs. We need research on how we can help shape a modern Arctic lifestyle that is in harmony with the traditional. Last but not least, we need to tailor this to the variety of societies and cultures that exist in what we like to call “one region”.
The hard work is not to find the information but to share it. We have bodies today that can facilitate the knowledge, but there are too many examples of this knowledge gathering dust in an office instead of reaching its target audience. We need a plan together with strong voices that can inspire and empower youth to act upon the many possibilities, so that we can prove Aristotle wrong also in the future. The question is if these voices exist. If they don’t – who will take on the mission?
Originally published in UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2016 Special Issue: Arctic Council at 20