Combining Anthropology and Law: Industrial Development Impact Assessments in the Arctic
The last few months, and especially the past six weeks, seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. The perpetual darkness and late seasonal snowfall, combined with conferences to be attended, spoken at, and organized, as well as report deadlines, have made time a blur. Most recently, in addition to my regular work, I organized a conference at the Arctic Centre on "Anthropological and legal aspects of industrial development impact assessment" proposed by two of my colleagues, research professors of law and anthropology. Although it was somewhat outside my academic scope, the conference was incredibly interesting. We had speakers, ranging from university professors to consultants on global risk (specialising in political, security, and integrity), who came to Rovaniemi from remote areas such as Sakha Yakutia in Russia as well as from Vienna and London. We also utilized our local Finnish experts from the Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA) who presented on “The Integration of nature-based economies and mining projects located close to tourist destinations in Lapland.” The latter focused mainly on the Hannukainen iron-ore mine, which is located approximately 10 km from one of Finland’s oldest ski resorts and highest fells, and also the Pallas-Ylläs, a nature reserve area. What has been particularly challenging in regard to impact assessments in this area, is the effect of such projects on the pristine landscape and tourist industry, as well as on reindeer herding, fishing, and hunting.
Aitalina Ivanova, a law professor at Northeastern Federal University in Russia presented on “Legal aspects of industrial development on traditionally used lands: the example of Sakha Yakutia.” She focused on the contradictory nature of Russian federal and regional law in regard to the delineation of the Arctic in the Russian north. Whereas Russian federal law only recognizes 6 sub-regions of Sakha Yakutia as belonging to the Arctic, the region itself recognizes 12 sub-regions – a clear discrepancy that has particularly impacted the distribution of financial resources in the area. She also examined the effects of non-compliance of federal and regional legislation in regard to the indigenous land use in the North. There have been particular complications associated with the registration of territory for indigenous peoples’ use (for traditional subsistence). Generally, the presentation was salient in conveying the depiction of indigenous peoples as objects, as opposed to subjects, of law in Russia.
Overall, the conference examined holistic approaches, including anthropological studies on effects resulting from the application of law, to impact assessments. Although many global corporations have become increasingly aware and cooperative in regard to environmental impact assessments and risk analysis (to a certain degree), less focus has been placed on the effects of large- and small-scale industrial projects on local communities and traditional livelihoods. However, as our speaker on global risk analysis pointed out, academics, lawyers, and anthropologists may even be able to take advantage of tools developed by corporations. The Arctic region has been particularly interesting when examining lifestyle changes – in occupation, knowledge, well-being, religious views, social structure, patterns of movement and settlement - of local peoples as a result of the development of the oil and gas industry. The interplay of law and anthropology is, thus, becoming more important as the number of such projects in the region increases.