A ‘convenient truth’: the enabling power of map-representations in a changing Arctic

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Climate change is not only changing the Arctic environment and ecosystems: it is also opening up the idea of the region as a last frontier to be explored. Recent representations of the future for the Arctic have become closely associated with various business-friendly opportunities as the land and sea ice is melting: They often represent so-called win-win solutions to climate change, also for Arctic communities. However, many of the proposed development opportunities imagined for the Arctic region will contribute to increase the burning of carbon, whether it is more tourism, mining, shipping, agricultural activities, or oil and gas drilling. In this paper, I argue that Arctic business opportunities can be seen as discursively based on map-representations. Many conventional maps already show the Arctic ocean as an open, blue space on the top of the world, and maps from for example the US Geological Survey (USGS) portray the potentials for oil and gas that can be found ‘under the ice’. I explore how map-representations of the Arctic have emerged through and in the context of climate change. I see maps as both constituted by political discourse but also constituting political discourses. This means that the political influence that maps have in society are not coming only from the makers, commissioners, or users of maps but also in the abilities of maps to affect its socio-political context. I focus on the map by the USGS (2008) that shows estimates of undiscovered oil and gas north of the Arctic Circle. I argue that such maps enable businesses to see climate change as a ‘convenient truth’, promoting a neoliberal attitude to nature and an ecological modernization approach to the future of the Arctic region. I conclude by discussing what discourses are silenced when discourses of economic opportunities are dominating.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 10
Publication categoryResearch
EventCalotte Academy 2018: Discourses on the Arctic – (inter)disciplinary theories and methods of Arctic research - Travelling synopsium in Rovaniemi and Inari (Finland), in Neiden and Kirkenes (Norway), and in Apatity and Kirovsk (Russia), Rovaniemi, Finland
Duration: 2018 Jun 32018 Jun 10


WorkshopCalotte Academy 2018
Internet address