“The Scramble for the Arctic”

When Russia planted a flag at the North Pole in 1997, claiming the territory – and its rich gas and oil resources – the world watched with concern. A race for drilling rights began. Richard Sale and Eugene Potapov examine the history of the region, its inhabitants, wildlife and geopolitical importance.

They identify two “waves” of exploitation of the Arctic. The first targeted animals for furs, skins and food. By 1600, “around 20,000 official furs were reaching Moscow” each year. Sea otters, bears, beavers, lynx and wolves were killed and taken to Russia.

The second wave came to the world’s attention in 1997, and was what the authors call a “colonial scramble” for natural resources.

As well as offering a broad history of the Arctic, Sale and Potapov speculate about its future: the environmental impact of oil production may have devastating effects on a region already at the frontline of global warming.

The Scramble for the Arctic
Richard Sale and Eugene Potapov
Frances Lincoln, 2010

— By Emmanuelle Smith


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010