Arctic Voices



The earth is crowned with a unique and special region known as the circumpolar world. Its vast spaces include the people and the territory of Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland and Alaska. The circumpolar world is connected by the Arctic Ocean and northern waterways. Its residents feel the same winds and breathe the same air.


Northern residents and regions face many of the same challenges. Some challenges, such as climate change and environmental pollution, reach across national boundaries. Some challenges are better addressed when knowledge and experience are shared across the circumpolar world. Such matters include lessons for protecting the health and well-being of northern residents as well as promoting sustainable economic development.


The International Institute for Sustainable Development, in cooperation with Canada’s Embassies in circumpolar countries, launched an internet outreach project in December 2007 aimed at young northern residents. Its purpose was straightforward: to promote the sharing of ideas and experience across the circumpolar world.

Emphasizing the unity of the circumpolar world, the project was named “Your North Is My North Is Our North.” However, for everyday usage, its full title was shortened to “North3.” The project consisted of a series of web pages with information relevant to northerners, including information about:

  • Climate Change
  • Environment
  • Sustainable Economic Development
  • The Arctic Council

Visitors to the web pages were encouraged to record their views about matters important to their community and to the circumpolar world. To ensure a truly circumpolar reach, the pages were offered in eight different languages: English, French, Russian, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Greenlandic.


Through the North3 project, northern residents from throughout the circumpolar world shared their ideas and their views. Here is a sample of some of the contributions:

We must protect our environment. Because to hurt the Earth is to hurt yourself.

We are very concerned about the pollution. In spring and in summer we clean the town from litter in the parks, near the houses, in the streets and squares.

We can help nature by saving energy and different natural material -reducing electricity and gas, reusing glass bottles, plastic, recycling paper, cans. It can help our forests, water resources and animals.

Emina Sunshalieva, Novy Urengoi, Russia

We should all do our share in taking care of the environment, also for the future generations’ sake. Although the northern parts of our countries are not as populated as the southern cities, I highly value my community and my region. However, more public services ought to be available for the Northerners, and there should be other kinds of international activity besides tourism.

Sofia Poikela, Rovaniemi, Finland

Sisimiut is special because Sisimiut is a big town in Greenland but a very little town on the international scene. The town has 6,000 inhabitants and it has the second largest population in all of Greenland. Greenland has 56 – 57,000 inhabitants in 2.1 million square kilometres. Greenland is the biggest island in the world. The cities are spread along Greenland’s coast, so the distances can be very far from city to city.

Ittukusuk Heilmann, Sisimiut, Greenland

Not many people live here, there is one store – the store that my parents run. One airport and my dad is the airport chief. My school principal is the assistant airport chief. There is a swimming pool here and my grandfather is the caretaker. He is also the lighthouse operator and the only policeman here. Here there are only 8 classes in the school and 11 students.

Bjarni Reykjalín Magnússon, Grímsey, Iceland

Northern people live in difficult nature conditions, but they love their place of birth.

Nashiphan Kumratova, Novy Urengoi, Russia

I like living in Grímsey. Here in Grímsey we have about 90 inhabitants. The Arctic Circle touches Grímsey and people come from all over the world to step north of the circle.

Ingólfur Bjarni Svafarsson, Grímsey, Iceland

I think northern communities in general are special. Isolation, diversity, and history are just a few of the characteristics which make northern communities identifiable from their southern counterparts. Although there are certainly challenges to living in the North, there is a indescribable value in coming from such a special and unique part of the world…I think education needs to be improved for northerners. Rather than using the same academic curriculum as students from the south, it would benefit school students to spend more time learning about their own environments, cultures, as well as those across the northern areas.

Harry, Happy Valley, Canada

We may live simple lives but we are not a simple people, us northerners. We are a strong people, whether aboriginal, immigrant, caucasian, Japanese, African, Islamic…northerners are a culmination of all walks of life. Born or brought to the north through adventure, work, family. Many who say they only will stay for a year or two end of spending the rest of their lives living just a little more simpler and a lot more happier than most people in the south!

Norbert Nigitstil, Yellowknife, Canada

After school I usually go home and do my homework. If I’m done with my homework I play sports, such as handball, Inuit games and fitness training. I go to Inuit games twice a week. I have joined the Inuit games for almost half a year, but I tried it the first time for almost a year ago, when a Greenlandic national trainer was in our town. I am now on the national team, U-18 national team, which means that I am going to Canada in March to join the Arctic Winter Games.

Ittukusuk Heilmann, Sisimiut, Greenland

The North is a lonely and ascetic place, but people who live in the North have always supported each other and the Northern communities have always been strong. Now we must work together to combat climate change and the environmental problems!

Julia Ohela, Espoo, Finland

All circumpolar regions are extreme, and because of this, full of innovative and clever people. We are tough yet sensitive, and we share the same issues when it comes to climate change, and exploration in the north … Let’s start investing in the companies that want long term, low intensity drilling. Companies that will give First Nations and long time residents in the north every opportunity to advance and succeed. We need to build capacity in the north and the human resources must come from First Nations, or long time residents of the north.

Brandon Kyikavichik, Old Crow, Canada

Here in Sisimiut we hunt in the summer and winter. In the winter we hunt rabbits, ptarmigans and sometimes reindeers. When we hunt, we hunt in the nature about 80 km from the town. That is where my family has a hut, the place is called Itinneq. When we go out there in the winter, we drive snowmobiles or dog sledges. When we hunt, we walk or drive with dog sledge. When we hunt ptarmigans we shoot them with a shotgun or rifle, and when we shoot rabbits we use the same guns but if they are far away, we shoot them with a rifle. We also hunt in the sea in the winter, we hunt razorbills and eiders, and we shoot them from a boat with shotguns.

Ujarneq Sørensen, Sisimiut, Greenland

The Western Arctic, like other circumpolar regions, is covered in small lakes and vast tundra. We share the Arctic Ocean with other circumpolar countries, we also share some of the same environmental concerns as they do. Our Inuit and First Nations people face some of the same struggles as their indigenous peoples, like loss of language and traditions. We are all in trouble with the effects of climate change.

Linda, Inuvik, Canada

We of the north are of a very small population of the world that still live in direct contact with a more “earth conscience” way of life. Many of us still live directly on the land and get our food from it. We walk on the ground, not on sidewalks. We watch the sun sets and the moon rise. In the north it is almost impossible not to feel closer to the earth. Ask anyone who has come to these lands and felt that they could never return to their original home. There is a power that has left many places in this world but yet clings to our northern land and to its people.

Jonathan Osborne, Whitehorse, Canada

We have to fly or sail to get to “Iceland”. We can watch the mountains on the northern shore of the county in good weather. Almost everyone lives off the sea and almost every man works in or around fishing.

Bjarni Reykjalín Magnússon, Grímsey, Iceland

I already see the changes that Television has made to the north. How it has stopped people form enjoying the out-doors and made them less interested in nature. We are becoming passive, watchers of the world and the best thing for everyone, environment included is to get involved and get your hands dirty. If we all are engaged with and connected to our land we would never do anything that would bring it harm because of the understanding that what happens to a land, happens to its people.

Jonathan Osborne, Whitehorse, Canada

In the summer and autumn in Sisimiut, I usually go out to hunt reindeer. I have been hunting since I was about 6 years old. The hut where we usually go hunting is also a place where we usually come in the winter. It is a little hut that is a little complicated to get to. First we sail for 1 hour or 1 and a half, then we take all of our equipment on land, and put it into our bags and then we walk for some hours on land. When we have finished walking we find our little boat at the lake where we hunt. Then we board the boat and sail by the coast maybe for two hours. The way we catch reindeer by boat is the easiest: we just sit down in the boat and look for reindeer and if we see one that isn’t too little or too big we walk up and shoot it. It is such a satisfaction to come home with a good catch – and that is probably why I like it so much.

Alex Amasa Olsen, Sisimiut, Greenland

Everything evolves around fish. To be more exact, “the yellow one”, the cod. The Icelandic Marine Research Institute recently visited to area to research the fish around Grímsey. The people here are really hard working since we are so few. One is used to working in bad weathers. The children start to work at a young age in the fish industry. Everyone here is interested in birds and quite a number of “bird experts” are on the island. People still utilize the birds by picking eggs from the cliffs and catching puffins in nets.

Ingólfur Bjarni Svafarsson, Grímsey, Iceland

Visit the North! It is an amazing part of the world. Simply beautiful, powerful and immense, our northern world is still wild and pristine portrayed in a diversity of landscapes ranging from towering mountains to rolling tundra, and from seacoast to marshy lowlands and boreal forests.

Linda, Inuvik, Canada