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Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom

Announcing publication of the second volume in the Arctic Security Project

Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic

Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom?

We are pleased to announce the publication this week of Barry Scott Zellen's second nonfiction book on the transformation and modernization of the Arctic region: "Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic," published by Praeger. The second of a three-volume project exploring the foundations of security, stability and sovereignty in the modern Arctic, it examines the challenges and opportunities of a polar thaw; considers the impacts on geopolitics, international security, and international commerce; and discusses what a “post-Arctic” world might look like. The book includes an introduction by former Alaska Governor and U.S. Interior Secretary Walter J. Hickel, and a foreword authored by Professor Daniel J. Moran of the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

While this past summer saw a continued deceleration of recent melting trends, the Arctic meltdown still remains in hyperdrive by historical measure, with some scientists projecting an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean as early as 2013. The “Big Thaw” is a double-edged sword: it will open the region to a “Cold Rush” of economic and military exploitation, as long-sought sea lanes and the vast hydrocarbon riches of the Arctic seafloor will be exposed by the shrinking of the ice cap for the first time in human history.

But at the same time, it could spell environmental disaster for many Arctic biota and challenge the subsistence economies and traditional cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Far North. The “Big Thaw” will present the world a new theater for state rivalry and international conflict, as well as an emergent stage where international law and multilateralism can be put to work in the interest of mankind. Can a tolerable balance be struck?

In this volume, the author argues that the twilight of the reign of ice in the Arctic marks the dawn of a new geostrategic pivot and economic powerhouse—a rich new navigable “Mediterranean” basin full of beneficial promise for the future of the Arctic rim nations, the indigenous Arctic peoples, and human history. Zellen surveys the history of the global strategic and military importance of the Arctic region through the bifocal lenses of neorealism and geopolitics, with particular attention to its role as the Cold War’s Northern Front. He shows how the dramatic acceleration of melting in the Arctic in the present decade is thrusting the Arctic back onto the center stage of geostrategic concerns, posing a hard choice for the circumpolar nations between cooperative development of the Arctic’s vast, hitherto inaccessible resources, or a new cold war among military antagonists and economic rivals.

Zellen compares and evaluates the contending models for the Arctic’s future development put forward by such figures as former Alaska Governor and U.S. Interior Secretary Walter Hickel; Arctic expert and International Relations theorist Oran Young; Major-General (ret.) Richard Rohmer; and Arctic environmental journalist and author Ed Struzik.


Further information can be found at the following links:

Table of Contents:

  • Foreword by Walter J. Hickel, former Governor of Alaska and U.S. Interior Secretary – vii
  • Foreword by Daniel J. Moran, Professor of National Security Affairs – ix
  • 1. Introduction: Arctic Spring – 1
  • 2. The Geopolitics of Snow and Ice – 7
  • 3. An Arctic Imperative? – 45
  • 4. From Cold War to Warming Earth – 69
  • 5. Polar Uncertainties – 103
  • 6. The End of the Arctic – 137
  • Notes – 165
  • Bibliography – 195
  • Index – 225


“To understand sustainable living in the Arctic, you have to have sustained thinking in the Arctic. You have to live it, over time. As Barry Zellen knows from his years in the Canadian north, those of us who live in the Arctic and sub-Arctic have a unique perspective that may surprise those from more temperate climes. The latter see the high latitudes as cold, remote, and as mysterious as the Moon. But to those of us who live here, the Arctic is home. . . . To be able to benefit from the Alaska economic model, and the peaceful relationships that Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson calls ‘The New North,’ it is vital that policymakers worldwide take the time to understand the Northern experience and welcome it. This book will help. Barry Zellen explores the complexity and the challenges facing the Arctic while recognizing the exciting reality that the Day of the Arctic is upon us.”
—Walter J. Hickel, former Governor of Alaska, former U.S. Interior Secretary, and author

“The Arctic is in the midst of fundamental change. The combined forces of climate change and resource development are opening the region in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. This has created a growing debate as to what this transformation will do to international relations within the region. There are those who believe that the region will remain an arena of peaceful cooperation. However, there are others who are increasingly worried about the development of new points of international tension in the Arctic. With Arctic Doom or Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic, Barry Scott Zellen has provided an excellent book that examines the challenges that the Arctic will face now increasingly face. Not all readers may agree with his assessment of what Arctic security will look like, but few will be able to refute his research and scholarship on this issue. This is necessary reading for anyone concerned with the future of the Arctic.”
—Dr. Rob Huebert, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Associate Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary

“Barry Zellen’s Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic will be an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to inform himself about a part of the world whose significance is increasing far more rapidly than was anticipated even a few years ago. This is because the ice is melting faster than anyone expected. Why it is doing so is an important question, because the shrinking of the world’s great ice sheets is linked to most of the truly transformative outcomes hypothesized in connection with global climate change, including rising sea levels, the alteration of major ocean currents, and a reduction in the Earth’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. All these are matters of great uncertainty, difficult to model scientifically, and even more difficult to understand in human terms, given the enormous range of outcomes that the best available science admits. The one thing we know for sure is that if the Arctic sea ice melts it will not melt alone, so that changes in the Arctic are certain to be linked to far-reaching changes elsewhere. One way or another, the Arctic is about to become far more intricately connected to the larger world than it has ever been before.”
—Dr. Daniel J. Moran, Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

“For those who know a piece of today’s Arctic story, Barry Zellen neatly connects the dots from Alaska to Greenland with a wealth of detail. His research and his experience living in the region come together here to buoy a generation of scholars, scientists and policy-makers.”
—Mike Peters, (Former) Editor, First Alaskans Magazine

“Barry Zellen is way ahead of the curve in the field of security studies in focusing on the intersection that state rivalries and environmental issues in the Arctic will have on global security and stability. In his trilogy on the transforming Arctic, Zellen highlights the important role this part of the world will play in global security as the world increasingly focuses on climate change and the environmental dimensions of national security. All serious students of security studies should closely examine this work and ensure that it receives the space it deserves on their library shelves and course curriculums.”
—Dr. James Russell, Senior Lecturer and (Former) Director, Center for Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

For More Information:

The author may be reached by e-mail at

About the Author:

In addition to serving as Director of the Arctic Security Project at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Zellen is also the editor of the Strategic Insights journal and the Americas correspondent for Intersec. He has lived in the Western Arctic region of Canada for over a decade, managing the Inuvialuit newspaper, Tusaayaksat; Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon; and the Native Communications Society of the NWT. A protégé of IR theorist Kenneth Waltz and an expert on the tribal dimensions of world politics, Zellen was a MacArthur Foundation International Security Fellow, an Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation Research Fellow, and a Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security Northern Security grant recipient. He has taught at several universities and colleges including Arctic College, the Center for Northern Studies, and Wesleyan University, and his published works include Breaking the Ice: From Land Claims to Tribal Sovereignty in the Arctic (March 2008), as well as the forthcoming On Thin Ice: The Inuit, the State and the Challenge of Arctic Sovereignty and The Other Side of the Arctic: Indigenous Identity and Modernization in the Western Arctic.

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