Day 51: In Which There is a Conference

It’s another rainy day in our nation’s capitol. What a lovely day to go to a Polar Law Symposium (yesterday) or the Arctic Circle Conference (today, tomorrow, and Saturday, because all sensible conferences run Thursday-Sunday, right?).

The Polar Law Symposium was surprisingly fun, for all that I really don’t have enough international law background to make the most sense of some of the presentations. One speaker was giving a talk about a failed dam project in Canada, which died a long slow death of spiraling costs that stemmed from not listening to environmental impact assessment, and he mentioned offhandedly that they were gonna try and build a different dam further down river. At which point he said my favorite thing anybody said all day: no mistake so stupid it’s not worth making twice, just to be sure.

one of the best things about wandering around Reykjavik is there’s just murals everywhere. look! planets! it also (temporarily) stopped raining

Today was the first day of the Arctic Circle Conference, and one thing that cracked me up immediately was the distinct lack of dress code. There were people wandering around in sweatpants & crocs, suits & ties, formal military dress uniforms, and hiking boots & heavy duty rain gear. Academics are my favorites.

I was surprised how much basically every talk at least partially orbited around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I guess I shouldn’t have been, given that Russia is one of the eight core members of the Arctic Council and about half the Arctic by itself, but there has been a lot of flap and disagreement amongst the rest of the Arctic states what to do about the invasion.

Cut Russia out of the council? Well then it’s not really an Arctic Council now is it? And is it worth sacrificing all the long running, important science that has been getting done in collaboration with Russia about the Arctic and climate change? The Arctic has been conflict free since World War II, and was the focus of a lot of treaties during the Cold War, is this really the thing that tips us out of 70 years of international cooperation? But Russia’s invasion fundamentally undermines the essential principles of international law as a concept (both conferences have so far featured a Lot of very nervous international lawyers), and there have to be consequences for that. It’s a mess, and everyone is both very stressed and coming to radically different conclusions. It’s been making for an interesting undercurrent for the last couple days.

There’s also quite a lot of elbowing over who gets to be considered Arctic, or ‘near Arctic’, or ‘close enough pretty please we all want a chunk of the North-West Passage’. Several panels focused on how China, or Japan, or Singapore, or Ireland, or Estonia, are positioning themselves as also close enough to the Arctic that they would also like a say, please. All the states that actually own territory above the Arctic Circle are distinctly unimpressed (undertone: it’s my backyard, step off), despite most of the Arctic Ocean actually being international waters, so they kinda have a point.

By far the most Quintessentially Icelandic thing that has happened at this conference is that in addition to the free coffee stations actually everywhere, there are open refrigerators with complimentary yogurt. It’s pretty nice yogurt even, it’s got fruit in.

the walk between my hostel and the convention center looks like This. it’s so pretty

I’m having a pretty good time, and there’s a couple of talks I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.

One response to “Day 51: In Which There is a Conference”

  1. I love skyr😊


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