This Year’s ‘High North Hero’ Envisions a Peaceful Future for the Arctic

Birgham receives the award on stage.

Lawson W. Brigham is the High North Hero 2024. He is a distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Senior Fellow at the Institute of the North.

This Year’s ‘High North Hero’ Envisions a Peaceful Future for the Arctic
As global interest in the High North grows, it will be in everyone's interest to keep the Arctic off the 'conflict map', according to the winner of prestigious award.

How will the Arctic look like in 10 years?

The question was asked by editor and commentator Arne O. Holm of the High North News, during a recent interview with Dr. Lawson Walter Brigham (see the full interview at the bottom).

Brigham is the receiver of the prestigious «High North Hero» award for 2024. His long experience comes with a unique insight into a region that is gaining increased global attention, and where the potential for conflict is present.

The US, Russia, and China are all intensifying their presence in the region, both economically and militarily​ – as climate change makes the region more accessible.

Still, this year's High North Hero remains optimistic about the future. In the interview with Holm, he believes it is in everyone’s interest to keep the Arctic off the “conflict map”.

– I personally believe the Arctic will remain a peaceful place on earth. I think it's very plausible to remain peaceful, Dr. Brigham says in the interview.

– Economic resources are good reasons even for Russia to keep the place peaceful, keep the friction down, have some measure of cooperation, hopefully more cooperation on environment and climate. So I'm optimistic.

About the High North Hero Award

The High North Hero award honors a person, organization or company who has contributed to highlighting or developing the High North.

The prize is organized by the High North Center for Business and Governance at Nord university in Bodø, Norway.

Usually the prize is given out during the High North Dialogue conference in Bodø, but was this year included as part of the merged Arctic Congress Bodø 2024.

Ice Breakers in the Future?

Dr. Brigham received the High North Hero award for is engagement in the Arctic. According to the jury, Dr. Brigham has “been an instrumental leader improving knowledge, safety, and governance of Arctic shipping”.

He has worked as a Coast Guard Officer and commanded icebreakers in both the Arctic and Antarctic, which underscores his profound commitment to polar expeditionary science.

«His tenure as a Distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy has furthermore been marked by groundbreaking contributions to Arctic maritime policy», the jury states.

He has led the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment and helped shape the International Maritime Organization Polar Code. Following his retirement, he has continued to advocate for and contribute to Arctic development through academic roles.

Dr. Brigham has actively contributed to private sector efforts through sharing of his vast knowledge for the betterment of the Arctic shipping community - and his publications has enriched Arctic security and marine governance discourse, according to the jury. Here he receives the award from Patti Bruns, secretary of the Arctic Mayors' Forum.

In the interview he got asked the question if ice breakers will be needed in the future. As the sea melts, will ice breakers be a thing of the past?

– In fact, it will be the opposite, Dr. Brigham says.

– There'll be more traffic and more need for response and capability in the Arctic. There'd be more activity, which demands more presence. And certainly the Russian Federation, in the Northern Sea Route, has a need for their escort system.

Climate Change is the ‘Wild Card’

Although being optimistic about the future, Dr. Brigham is also realistic, pointing on climate change as the “wild card” that must be addressed by the world’s leaders.

– All our elected officials must address the climate change issues so that the temperature elevations can be mitigated somewhat.

One of the biggest challenges though, is communicating the technical aspects of climate science to the public and politicians.

– The Arctic experiences four times the temperature elevation compared to lower latitudes, yet the industrial activities causing these impacts happen elsewhere. The efforts must involve the global community.

Dr. Brigham also expressed his belief that the younger generation have a good grasp of the complexities of the Arctic and the broader world, recognizing that everything is interconnected.

– Hopefully, they will think strategically about how to tackle these global challenges.

See the full interview with Dr. Brigham here:

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