Categories
Government Environment

Heated Politics in a Frozen Land

Soon a natural part of the landscape? Oil barrels in Greenland, photo: ezioman/flickr

The oil fever has struck the Arctic sooner than expected. Several of the world’s biggest oil companies are vying for access to Greenland after a gas discovery last month raised expectations for offshore exploration around the inhospitable nation.

Greenland, the planet’s largest island with a population of just over 56,000, had been searching for the black gold for decades. In the past, however, Greenlanders have been destined to make a living from fishing and $600 million in annual subsidies from the Danish motherland (making up 55 precent of the island’s budget – or 0.75 percent of Denmark’s.) So, quite understandably, a majority of Greenlanders are now looking favorably upon the latest developments and are supporting oil exploration as a way to create jobs and wealth in a country troubled by high unemployment and social problems such as alcoholism and the world’s highest suicide rate.

Besides, the islanders are hopeful the oil might yield sufficient revenue to finally throw off the yoke of external rule and maybe even turn their icy island into an Arctic Kuwait.

These developments come soon after Greenland’s latest step towards independence. Already in 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, and in November 2008, voters in Greenland overwhelmingly approved a plan for expanding the island’s autonomy. The plan (which Denmark supported) allowed the small, mostly Inuit population to take control over the local police force, courts and coast guard and to make Greenlandic, an Inuit tongue, the official language.

It also set new rules on how to split future oil revenues between Greenland and Denmark, giving Greenland the first $13 million of annual revenues, while anything beyond that would be split equally between Greenland and Denmark. The new status quo then took effect on 21 June 2009, leaving the Danish royal government in charge only of foreign affairs, security and financial policy, while still providing the $600 million annual subsidy (or approx. $11,300 per Greenlander.)

Categories
Environment

Surviving the Coming Scarcity

Middle-class consumption patterns place additional stress on already diminishing resources, photo: Daniel Kulinski/flickr

The world appears to be in the midst of transitioning from a planet of relative surplus to one of scarcity. This week the ISN examines what happens when ever-more acute resource limitations meet unsustainable consumption patterns.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Vivian Brailey Fritschi about what happens when ever-more acute resource constraints collide with the entrance of new, insatiable consumers.
  • A Podcast interview with Stefan Giljum from the Sustainable Europe Research Institute on the unique challenge of non-renewable resources running out..
  • Security Watch articles about resource conflicts from Africa to the Middle East.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung on ‘The Geopolitical Dimension of Resource Scarcity’.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of UN Security Council Resolutions on natural resource depletion as a threat to international peace and security.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Oxford Research Group’s Sustainable Security website, which provides the latest news, comment, analysis and research relating to threats to global security and sustainable responses to those threats.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Global Footprint Network, an international think tank working to advance sustainability through use of the ecological footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use and who uses what.
Categories
Government Environment

A Storm in the Works

Oil, growth and security in Latin America, photo courtesy of Hubert Guyon/flickr

“Peru provides a dramatic example of a growing trend across Latin America where indigenous groups are challenging governments’ economic development programs by raising their voices against extractive industries,” Patricia Vasquez argues in USIP Peace Brief 19.

Across Latin America, economic growth is happening at a steady clip.  Similar to many countries in Africa, sustained growth is spurred by a demand for commodities – think oil, iron, ore, copper, gas, etc. –  needed to feed burgeoning economies, especially those in Asia. Indeed, such growth is counter to the trends happening in other parts of the globe where countries, in particular the United States and members of the EU, continue to grapple with economic contraction that has brought about hard policy decisions in the form of bailouts, stimulus packages, and cuts to social programs. In fact, a recent article in the New York Times noted how this trend has not only surprised analysts but also “surpassed the expectations of many [Latin American] governments themselves.”

Narrowing the focus to Peru, the country I am currently traveling through, the growth is palatable. Though great economic disparities exist and poverty is pronounced one can’t help but feel a buzz in the air – one aided and sustained by the development of Peru’s hydrocarbon areas and plans for expansion in the oil and natural gas sector (ONG). In 2009, as Peru’s GDP experienced over five percent growth, multinational oil and gas companies poured $800 million into the economy – making up for 50 percent of the nations tax revenues. A viable future in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production ensures that another $1 billion will be invested in the next few years.

Categories
Uncategorized

But Timber Doesn’t Sink, Right?

Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr
Lego Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

In one of the most bizarre stories of the month, a Finnish-owned ship with a timber load belonging to Stora Enso (a Finnish company and the second largest paper producer in the world) worth an estimated 1.3 million euros, vanished (yes, vanished!) as it was passing through the English Channel nearly three weeks ago on its way to Algeria. The ship and its all-Russian crew have not been heard from since. Reports state that the ship was hijacked off the Swedish coast in July and subsequently released by suspected pirates who had reportedly boarded the vessel dressed up as Swedish anti-narcotics police. The ship, upon failing to bring its load to Algeria on 4 August was reported missing.

While the Finns seem oddly indifferent and blasé about the whole thing, Putin is already flexing his well-toned muscles and threatening to launch a Rambo-mission to find the poor hijackees (with the help of his sidekick, Medvedev, of course). We needn’t worry though- apparently timber can’t sink, so the ship will be found, intact or as a sea of floating Finnish timber in the Atlantic.