Arctic Congress: High North Hero 2024: "It's a New World Order"

Lawson W. Brigham.
Lawson W. Brigham is the High North Hero 2024. Dr. Brigham is a distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Senior Fellow at the Institute of the North. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Bodø (High North News): The High North Hero of 2024 is the former icebreaker commander, policy maker, and scientist Dr. Lawson Walter Brigham. "We must adress climate change", said the fresh hero.

"His tenure as a distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy has been marked by groundbreaking contributions to Arctic maritime policy", says the High North Hero comittee about the 7th High North Hero, Dr. Lawson Walter Brigham.

This years High North Heros list of accomplishments for the Arctic is long. Fellow at the Center for Arctic Study & Policy at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington DC and commander of several icebreakers.

The High North Hero Award is presented annualy by The High North Center for Business and Governance, usuallly connected to the High Nort Dialogue conference.

This year the conference is part of the merged Arctic Congress, where Dr. Brigham flew in from Alaska to Bodø, Northern Norway, to accept the award.


The Nordic hero himself said in an interview with the editor of High North News, Arne O. Holm, that it was interesting to be named a hero, as he considered the real heroes to be the good people in the Coast Guard who saved lives.

A key leader
Patti Bruns, secretary secretary of the Arctic Mayors' Forum

"I'm quite honored, especially with my background in the US military".

His involvement in the Arctic stems from that background, as a US Coast Guard officer.

"Being an icebreaker captain and being involved in the polar marine environment," said the captain-turned-policy-maker.

Ground breaker

Patti Bruns, secretary secretary of the Arctic Mayors' Forum, described the award winner as a man whose career has been marked by "ground-breaking contributions to Arctic policy".

"He has been a key leader in improving the knowledge, safety and governance of Arctic shipping. The Arctic Hero of 2024 has also actively contributed to private sector efforts by sharing his vast knowledge with the improvement of the Arctic shipping community", Bruns said in her speech.

Patti Bruns og Lawson W. Brigham.
The Award of High North Hero 2024 was given to Dr. Lawson W. Brigham by Secretary General for the Arctic Mayors forum, Patti Bruns. Lawson is a Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Senior Fellow at the Institute of the North. He accepted the award at The Arctic Congress in Bodø, Northern Norway. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Brigham has been in command of four polar cutters - most notably the icebreaker Polar Sea, which he navigated through both Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Still a need

Speaking of icebreakers; will there still be a need for them in the future? wondered Holm.

"With the melting of the Arctic sea ice? Yes, it is exactly the opposite. The more traffic due to less ice, the more need for response and capacity in the Arctic. We will see more cruise ships, more commercial traffic as the Arctic sea ice recedes , says Brigham.

"We don't know how long the navigation season will be, but there will be more activity that requires more presence. And on the Russian Northern Sea Route has need for a escort system."


When it comes to combating climate change, the retired captain believes that one of the challenges is communicating climate science to the public.

About the High North Hero award

Every year, the High North Center for Business and Governance at Nord University Business School awards the High North Hero prize to a person or organization contributing to development and growth in the Arctic. The award consists of NOK 50,000 and the award is conferred in relation to the international conference High North Dialogue, which takes place in Bodø. Nordland County funds the award.

"When it comes down to it, the only thing we can do is change our consumer lifestyles. Like changing sea traffic to carbon-free fuels. It's a big task, but it will make a change".

What advice do you have for young people? Holm wanted to know.

"I believe that young people understand the complexity of the world today. They think beyond tomorrow, for their children and grandchildren. And hopefully they think strategically about how to deal with climate change", the researcher said.

Wild card

What are your predictions for the next ten years?

"Politicians must adress climate change. These challenges are the new wild card. And for the Arctic it is a new world order, with seven of eitht countries in NATO. But I believe that the Arctic will remain a peaceful region, keeping friction down with some level of cooperation. And hopefully more cooperation on climate change. 

"We want to keep the Arctic off the conflict list."

Lawson W. Brigham is now retired from active duty, but continues to advocate and contribute to Arctic development through academic roles.

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