BANGOR, Maine — Changing conditions in the Arctic, the role Maine might play in studying the ice cap and the potential for emerging industries will be the topic of a two-day symposium May 20-21 in Bangor, according to Lt. Col. Darryl Lyon of the Maine Army National Guard.
“Mainers thrive in the cold. Let’s leverage our cold weather hardiness and ingenuity to provide leadership where it’s needed — in the High North,” said Lyon, a member of the Maine Guard’s 11th Civil Support Team who helped organize the event.
The Maine National Guard and the University of Maine’s School of Policy and International Affairs are hosting the two-day event titled “Leadership in the High North” at the Regional Training Institute at 289 North Hildreth St. Participation is invitation only.
“The conference will explore the challenges and emerging opportunities arising from the significant increases in Arctic activity due to the diminishment of sea ice and the emergence of the new Arctic environment,” Maj. Michael Steinbuchel, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, said in a press release.
“This change is providing unique challenges and opportunities for everyone who has concerns about that change,” Lyon said in an email. “As ice melts and recedes, technology advances, and human curiosity peaks, indigenous cultures are affected, human activity is increasing, and interested parties are claiming their political positions.”
Less ice will mean more access to oil and gas hidden under it, Lyon said. The U.S. Geological Survey in 2008 estimated that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil lie under the ice, he said. Interested parties are jockeying for a piece of the pie, he said.
The White House in January published an “ Implementation Plan for The National Strategy for the Arctic Region” and it provides some unique insight into a possible role for Maine, Lyon said, listing three prominent opportunities: help study the Arctic through UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, build Arctic material such as ice-breaking ships, subzero clothing and communication systems, and provide political leadership.
“Maine and our region can choose to define how we will lead during this transformational time in the Arctic, and this leadership can come in many forms: academic, economic, geopolitical, environmental, scientific, cultural and many more, because the opportunities and challenges are still being defined,” the lieutenant colonel said.
Experts from The White House, the University of Maine, Canada and the U.S. military will be speaking to these challenges and opportunities before a diverse audience of interested partners, Steinbuchel said.
The guest speakers include Eric Cooper, Maritime Security & Arctic Region Policy director for the National Security Council; Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command; Rear Admiral Jonathan White, the Navy’s Oceanographer, Navigator of the Navy and Task Force Climate Change director; Maj. Gen. Christopher Coates, deputy commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command; and UMaine professor Paul A. Mayewski, Maine’s Climate Change Institute director.