Ice and Water: Politics, Peoples and the Arctic Council

John English. Penguin Canada/Allen Lane (Penguin, Canadian dist.), $34 (384p) ISBN 978-0-670-06538-7
Noted historian and biographer English turns his attention to the Arctic Council, the eight-nation intergovernmental forum where—in theory—the governments and peoples of the Arctic can come to consensus on issues that affect them all. Practice often falls far short of theory, and in this densely written work, English shows why this is the case for the council. The Arctic has a long history—European exploration may go back as far as a fabled expedition in the 4th century B.C.E., while indigenous peoples have lived and died there for many millennia—and opposition, not cooperation, has long been the rule in the region. In the recent past, national governments have often been in conflict with each other over their Arctic policies; these policies change over time, along with their governments, and regional interests are sometimes very different from global goals. English leads the reader through all this, contextualizing the history of the region before delving into the rise of the Arctic Council, conceived during the twilight years of the Cold War and midwifed with great difficulty amid tumultuous shifts in global power. The reader is left marveling—not that so little has been accomplished in spite of such great effort in the years since eight countries signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy back in 1991, but that anything can be accomplished at all. Agent: Linda McKnight, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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