Okay, say you were a group of international scientists, doing research on the Arctic, and coming off the International Polar Year, and you were going to hold a major conference to discuss your the findings over a broad area of Arctic issues. Things like the Environment, and Climate Change, with a stated goal of reviewing our understanding of the arctic system in a time of rapid environmental change. Say your organizing committee was from across the circumpolar world. Places like Canada, the US, Russia, Finland, Sweden, France and China (France and China?) Where would you hold your conference?
Say the conference would "provide an open international forum for discussion of future research directions aimed toward a better understanding of the arctic system and its trajectory. Topics will range from basic understanding of the Arctic and system-wide change to developing response strategies to adapt and mitigate change. The conference also will provide an opportunity for resource management and service agencies to link the most recent science findings to their objectives and priorities. All of the sessions have been designed to include human dimensions and social science research to ensure a balanced portfolio in conference talks and discussions." Where would you hold your conference?
If you answered Miami Florida, then you're right in step with the people organizing the State of The Arctic Conference this coming March. Yes, that Miami Florida. Southern tip of the continental US. About forty degrees south of the Arctic Circle, and about 90 degrees (F) warmer than my little corner of the Arctic at this very minute. Miami is about 3,300 kms (2000 miles) from the closest bit of the Arctic by any definition.
(image by Wadester16, by Creative Commons licence)
I have to say that after my initial knee jerk, I'm not quite sure what to think about this. The reason they give for holding the conference in Miami, is that it is centrally located and offers cheaper airfares. The centrally located part makes (supposedly) a smaller carbon footprint, and who doesn't want to save money. Money that can be better spent on research I suppose. It is a good thing, that the Arctic, and the environmental challenges it face, are being discussed, being researched.
But it smacks of "lets have a warm get away". There are other centrally located airports, relatively cheap to get to, and most of them a lot closer to the Arctic than Miami freaking Florida. For that matter there are ways of getting together that don't involve flight, if the carbon footprint is of central importance.
I get that a conference like this would cost a lot more if it was held in Arctic Bay, or Iqaluit, or hell Yellowknife. But this is a world wide conference, Helsinki is a lot closer to the Arctic, or Chicago, or Anchorage. Or Edmonton. But Miami?
All this smacks of is one of the central complaints that people who live in the Arctic have when it comes to policy and research and other such matters. That for the most part, it is run by people who have a huge, huge, disconnect with the Arctic itself.