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Published: 2023-10-23 Updated: 2023-10-26, 11:31

Outstanding research in focus when the U.S. Ambassador visits the Arctic Centre

NEWS Climate research, geopolitics, Sámi livelihoods, and challenges associated with just societal transformations were some of the issues on the agenda when Ambassador Erik D. Ramanathan visited Umeå University for the first time.

Text: Simon Oja

Umeå University's diverse research on, and for, the Arctic is academically strong and through dialogue with societal stakeholders and partners contributes to the strong development of the Arctic region. Progress is generally driven by science, technology, and innovation as they can be viewed as key indicators of a strong and prosperous society, which make research visits an important task in the foreign service community. The U.S. ambassador's visit demonstrates that Arctic issues are highly relevant.

Erik D. Ramanathan, the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden since January 2022, has a great interest in the promotion of human rights and innovation in health care and is also well versed in issues related to Indigenous populations. Ramanathan's significant interest in climate issues was clear by his active contribution to creating a dynamic dialogue about the importance of sustainable development in the Arctic while underlining the importance of societal transformation.

“It is necessary to quickly advance the agenda for the green transition”, says Erik D. Ramanathan.

The Arctic has become an increasingly important area in the light of climate change, international cooperation, and the necessary green transformation of society. Something that Keith Larson, Director of the Arctic Center and coordinator of the Climate Impacts Research Centre, also raises. He emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary research to build bridges of internal and international cooperation. Enabling multi- and transdisciplinary research contributes to the understanding of the Arctic as a region from several perspectives, most importantly by putting locals in the heart of the story. Keith Larson also believes that the Arctic may become increasingly important in the wake of climate change, which is forcing people to migrate north.

Society is constantly changing, so it is important that we create an understanding and dialogue about the processes.

“Umeå University was founded in 1965 on land that has traditionally been used as winter pasture for reindeer. Society is constantly changing, so it is important that we create an understanding and dialogue about the processes”, Keith Larson explains. 

The diverse Arctic research conducted at universities has an important role in creating that understanding. And much of this work takes place largely via or with the various center formations, all of which have contributed to the university's leading academic position in the Arctic. It is through centers such as the Arctic Centre, Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research, and the Climate Impact Research Center that Umeå University creates opportunities for multi- to transdisciplinary research to meet the need for new knowledge important for societal development.

Different perspectives on Arctic research

At the meeting, Erik D. Ramanathan had the opportunity to listen to four different perspectives on Arctic research. An Indigenous perspective was presented by Gudrun Norstedt, Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research, who discussed the history of Sámi land and resource use in Sápmi and how this informs our interpretation of the land open to exploitation through the green transition. Niklas Eklund, professor at the Department of Political Science, gave a geopolitical perspective on Arctic security dynamics and the geopolitical importance that the region has gained with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the potential Swedish NATO membership. Cristian Gudasz, an earth system modeler from the Climate Impacts Research Centre presented cutting-edge research on modeling the dynamics of lake methane, an important driver of climate change. Finally, Janina Priebe, Arctic Five Chair on environmental history, presented how societal transformation in the Arctic is shaped by regional and global needs for renewable energy.

Also present was an expert panel of a diverse scientists from across the Umeå University faculties, including Patrik Lantto, Várdduo; Arctic Five Chair on Occupational Medicine in the Arctic, Hans Petterson, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine; Tim Horstkotte, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science; Linda Lundmark, Department of Geography; and Pernilla Christensen, Deputy Dean at the Faculty of Forest Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

The ambassador's visit to the university also included a meeting with representatives from the university management.