Balance and Formas

We will most likely face increased climate change. Our vulnerability to climate change depends on how great the effects will be, and how well we can adapt. Sectors like reindeer herding, fishery, forestry, and small-scale winter tourism depend on renewable resources and are therefore more susceptible to climate change. The shifts in seasons and changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns affect where the reindeers can graze, where the fish are found, and where trees can be felled or where tourist activities can be organised. Different groups must adapt in different ways, and how they adapt depends a lot on what the effects are. For those who work within the winter tourism sector, charging extra during peak season could compensate for a later start of the season.

To facilitate the adaptation process, there may be a need for individuals, sectors, and political decision-makers to collaborate with one another. Political support could be in the shape of granted compensation for supplementary feeding when the increasingly frequent periods of thaw freeze the reindeer grazing areas. However, it is important to observe how political support for one sector affects another. For example, the forestry sector may need support to build more roads, as the ground does not stay frozen as long as it used to. Yet, expanding the road network can disrupt reindeer herding and reduce the number of cohesive spaces where the reindeers can graze.

Within the scope of the EU-funded BALANCE project (2002-2005) and FORMAS-funded projects (2008-2011), a number of case studies on reindeer herding, forestry, nature conservation, small-scale winter tourism, and small-scale fishing were carried out in different parts of Northern Europe. The studies are mainly based on interviews with people within each respective sector and field, which were conducted as of 2003 and onward. As the studies were conducted in specific areas, they are not necessarily applicable in other locations, not even within the same country. However, the results can be used to better understand the problems that exist within an area, and to begin to reflect on the possibilities of adapting. As years pass by, this information also gain historic value.

You can read more about these projects’ results under the tab Climate.

Most of the people who were interviewed worked within the previously mentioned sectors, including municipalities and county administrative boards, and were thus experts on their sectors, rather than scientific experts. Since the interviewees based their answers on their own experiences, they generally tended to describe less comprehensive changes, i.e. adaptation made over a few seasons or on the basis of a few extreme events, rather than systemic changes where certain activities could possibly not be carried out at all. This meant that the interviewees, to a certain extent, described then existing adaptation, such as what they had already done when the snow thawed during the winter. Consequently, the adjustment strategies are not only applicable to changes that are yet to come, but already exist to a certain extent. The results demonstrate how people are already coping with weather changes and extreme events and chart the changes that the interviewees witnessed while working in their industries.

The BALANCE project conducted a series of scientific studies, which, alongside the comprehensive IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports (2001 and 2007), constitute the basis for Northportal’s first website. Northportal was further developed by FORMAS-funded projects’. The projects ran at the University of Lapland, Finland, and at the Department of Human Geography (currently the Department of Geography and Economic History) at Umeå University, Sweden. The projects’ common feature is the Project Manager and Professor Carina Keskitalo, who, due to her early engagement, could be called the founder of Northportal. Carina works at both Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

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