Newsletter Disease, unemployment and climate change create a vague future for the High North

The summer is over, by all means. Photo: Zen Whisk

Dear reader! Just as we thought the calm summer up north was a sign of the times, it all crumbles again. The number of Corona infections is on the rise after a summer with air travels, cruise and gatherings, and new restrictions on crowds are in the pipeline.

High North News is back after the summer with anything but a soft start. The USA and Donald Trump are more alert than ever and clearly state to the world that the Arctic is a key area of interest.

We had a chat with the recently appointed U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region, James DeHart, who argues that the USA is currently launching an extensive diplomatic approach to the Arctic.

Coordinator for the Arctic region of USA, James DeHart.
Career diplomat James P. DeHart was appointed U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic region on July 29, 2020. (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Norway). 
Coordinator for the Arctic region of USA, James DeHart.

Vague future

Before the summer, there was much focus on Svalbard, off the northern coast of Norway, where the tourist industry more or less broke its back following the Corona shutdown. In an open letter, Visit Svalbard invited Trade Minister Iselin Nybø to visit in order to explain the gravity of the situation to her and ask for help.

This week, she came with a delegation. However, they left local businesses empty handed.

– We need concrete actions, not good thoughts, says Visit Svalbard CEO Ronny Brunvoll. (Norwegian only.)

As for the Hurtigruten cruise expediton vessel “MS Roald Amundsen” and its voyage to Svalbard with Covid-19 onboard, Brunvoll points out that neither passengers nor crew have entered settlements in either Longyearbyen, Barentsburg or Ny-Ålesund during its two July cruises. Svalbard still has no Corona infections.

Huge losses

Corona is also causing problems in Alaska, where there were nearly 38,000 fewer jobs in June 2020 compared to June the year before. The tourist industry has sustained great losses after the Corona virus put a halt to the tourist season.

In addition, this week saw the reporting of more than 150 new cases of Covid-19 in Alaska. The state is shutting down bars and restaurants in order to contain infection.

Record-high heat causes problems

Many are struggling now, in Svalbard as elsewhere. The pandemic endangers the economy, and now the unusual weather causes major problems for the mine that provides Longyearbyen with power and heating.


Jan Morten Ertsaas, Administrerende direktør i Store Norske
Jan Morten Ertsaas er administrerende direktør i Store Norske. Foto: Privat
CEO of Store Norske – the coalmining company – Jan Morten Ertsaas.

Unusual amounts of water have seeped into Mine 7 by Longyearbyen and CEO of Store Norske – the coalmining company – Jan Morten Ertsaas is not sure about when and whether the mine will be operational again.

The future is unclear for many of the inhabitants of the High North. Disease, unemployment and climate changes draw us an image we would prefer not to know. However, we do not have any other choice but to relate to the changes we are facing.

High North News will follow up next week with news in politics, science, business and life in the Arctic.

Do not forget to tip us about what happens in your northern neighborhood.

With the best wishes for the weekend,

News editor Trine Jonassen