Speech - The Arctic Council

Building the Future: An Ode to Youth and Resilience

| May 10, 2021

At the Arctic Frontiers 2021 conference, Joel Clement delivered the keynote address for the "Building the future" panel. His inspirational speech was an ode to empowering youth and building a resilient Arctic — and a reflection on the discussions of the 2020 Arctic Resilience Forum.


Joel Clement is an Arctic Initiative Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A shortened version of his speech is printed here.

While we speak of the future conditions of the Arctic, we don’t talk enough about the people who are going to be in the driver’s seat in that future Arctic — the youth and early career folks. […]

But what does this future Arctic look like?

While imagining this future I was startled to realize that by the time today's twenty-year-olds are my age, hitting their professional stride, it will be the year 2055. At that point, if we do our job right now, the rate of warming in the Arctic should have peaked. This is not to say the Arctic will then start cooling and eventually get back to normal, because that is not going to happen on a timeframe relevant to society. But the rate of change, which is currently accelerating at an alarming rate, should begin to slow. If we do our jobs now to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

An Arctic Vision

In 2055, having grown up with rapid change, never knowing the old status quo, these youth will know what they're up against and will have developed new systems to thrive in a warmer, wetter, greener, browner Arctic. They will know how to minimize the damage from wildfire; they’ll have developed protocols to protect the lands and waters from invasive species, they'll have learned how to ensure freshwater security, and better anticipate and predict what have become highly uncertain wildlife migrations....

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