- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Spotlight: Halla Hrund Logadóttir

| Spring 2018

For Halla Hrund Logadóttir, the challenges posed by rapid climate change in the Arctic truly hit home. Growing up on her grandparents’ sheep farm in Iceland, Logadóttir could see the crags of a massive glacier on the horizon. While sheep grazed on sloping volcanic fields of emerald green grass, she learned to drive tractors and fix engines. Today, she’s using that hands-on experience to protect the world’s most fragile ecosystem.

The Arctic, according to Logadóttir, has a reverse Las Vegas problem: what happens there does not stay there. While the harmful impacts of climate change are felt first and most acutely in the Arctic region, the consequences—from melting ice caps to spoiled ecosystems—quickly spill over into the rest of the globe. Making wise policy decisions now, however, could not only mitigate the risk of environmental harm but also set the stage for sustainable economic development that helps indigenous populations.

Convening industrial lead­ers, diplomats, scientists, and environmentalists to craft such policies is the mission of the Belfer Center’s Arctic Initiative, which John Holdren and Henry Lee co-founded and lead along with Logadóttir.

“I’ve always had this strong feeling of wanting to do something good for my country and its region,” she says. “I want to make sure that we’re making the right decisions now so we won’t have regrets in the future....My heart is in this!” 

Earlier, Logadóttir was a Director of Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavík   University in Iceland and an advisor on energy and Arctic issues to some of the country’s top leaders. 

Halla Hrund Logadottir

 Many people think of the Arctic as a remote, pristine area disconnected from   the rest of the world. But Logadóttir points out the importance of the Arctic with a map that puts the North Pole in the middle. “It’s funny how our world view is set based on a traditional map. But this area is such a big part of our planet.”

Melting ice caps from climate change could generate a host of new prob­lems—and unexpected opportunities. From rising seas and new international trade routes to energy extraction and food production, a changing Arctic won’t just redraw the map; it will change the trajectory of human develop­ment in the 21st century.

“You might just think of a polar bear way up there and it doesn’t seem so relevant, but an ice-free Arctic would have massive consequences for international security, global weather patterns, and the livelihood of millions.”

One of the Arctic Initiatives’s top priorities is developing environmentally sensitive policies that address challenges in the fast-changing region and advance the well-being of indigenous populations. Logadóttir is proud of the creative plans that HKS students affiliated with the Initiative have developed this year to strike that balance.

Arctic map (CIA)
Credit: CIA

“You can see these 14 students working on different ideas for the Arctic,” she says. “If you look at what they have managed to achieve over a short period, it gives me hope that we can solve some of these issues. We’ve man­aged to set a very collaborative tone. We aren’t just doing research; we’re also contributing solutions on policy issues through social innovation.”

Just as Iceland is a unique convergence of fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers, climate risk and opportunity, Logadóttir says the Arctic Initiative is a micro­cosm of the Belfer Center: different scholarly domains converging for the sake of a more secure, peaceful world.

“No one 100 years from now wants to be known for making terrible decisions,” she says. “Deep down inside, everyone wants to build a sustainable future. We have a unique opportunity at HKS to help make that happen.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Burek, Josh. “Spotlight: Halla Hrund Logadóttir.” Belfer Center Newsletter. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Spring 2018).

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