Long recognized by naturalists and adventurers as a dramatically unique region, the Arctic has recently emerged as an area of increasing political, strategic, and economic importance. The Arctic is both one of the world's largest and smallest regions, encompassing 15% of the earth's land mass, yet inhabited by fewer than 1% of the world's population. Its physical vastness is coupled with a wealth of natural resources; in oil alone, the Far North contributes that majority of Russia's production and 25% of US output. At the same time, the Circumpolar North is home to diverse indigenous peoples and cultures, thus setting the stage for conflicts of international scope.In this collection of essays, Oran Young provides a foundation for studying the politics of the Arctic as a distinctive international region. Expanding the traditional approach to area studies, he examines the Far North not only for its unique features, but also as an arena within which to develop new approaches to various issues of worldwide interest. Young challenges persistent stereotypes that marginalize the region, moving beyond the romanticism of many observers to arrive at an understanding of the complex social and ecological systems of the Far North. In doing so, Young thoughtfully establishes the Arctic as an area of international importance both in its own right and in relation to other geopolitical regions.
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