The media all over the world reported on the 6th of December, that a new planet – Kepler-22b – was discovered by NASA’s space telescope. It is the first so-called “super-Earth” known to orbit around a star similar to our Sun within the “habitable” zone. The star is slightly smaller than the Sun and about 25% less bright.
The planet orbits the star in 290 days, at a distance 15% closer than the Earth is from the Sun. Temperatures on this planet are just right for the existence of surface liquid water throughout its orbit, which means that the planet could have continents and oceans just like the Earth.
And as we know, where there is liquid water, there could also be life.
This discovery is a good example on how the mind of the human being is fascinated by the possibility of other life in the universe, even though we haven’t properly explored the possibilities of “other life” in our own planet Earth.
Sometimes I wish that such a telescope would be invented, which discovers the whole potential of the areas north from the 45° N parallel —lands and seas held by Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the U.S. (including its long row of northern states). I have been reading an interesting book called “The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future” by Laurence C. Smith. The author is a professor in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Department of Geology with research interests in Arctic climate change, Hydrology and Remote Sensing.
Smith’s book paints an interesting picture of the New North. With the land area over 12 million square miles (more than triple the land area of China) habited by quarter-billion people with an estimate of 7 trillion USD economy, it is these above mentioned regions—together with their Arctic hinterlands—that form the heart of a “New North,” a potential place for business opportunities in the 21st century.
Smith presents a research-based vision of what these eight northern countries and their surrounding seas might experience due to four powerful global forces: population demographics, resource demand, globalization and climate change.
According to Smith, the consequences of these forces will make the Northern Rim Countries – NORCs – a place of higher human activity and global strategic value within the next 40 years. NORCs are well positioned for the coming century even though the unique polar ecosystem is threatened by some of the climate changes on Earth.
But in a globally integrated 2050 world of over nine billion people, with increasing concerns of water supplies, heat waves and coastal flooding, what might this mean for the NORCs? To what extent might this under-populated, resource-rich, and in the future less bitterly cold area offer a safe haven from global changes?
If we blot out the country boarders and aim our telescope for example to the northern most areas of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia, the observations about this area are quite interesting:
*) Presentation by Timo Rautajoki, Managing Director of the Lapland Chamber of Commerce
We have already seen that Finland, Sweden and Norway are interesting to global companies because of their stable economies – and closeness to the giant Russian markets.
Major investments during the next ten years are related to mining industry, infrastructure and transportation, energy and tourism. These investments are focused especially in the Arctic.
But there are other examples too. For instance Google goes for the North because of the cold climate and low energy prices. It has already opened a server hall in Finland and will open another one in Luleå, Sweden. Another good example is Ikea. Ingvar Kamprad has always been a great visionary and his ability to recognize the business potential in the North is well seen in his comment, when opening the IKEA HaparandaTornio store in 2006: “I’m delighted to be here to take part in the opening of IKEA HaparandaTornio. From here we can meet the needs of people in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.”
Actually the IKEA HaparandaTornio is the world’s most international IKEA store, because the customers come from the four above mentioned countries.
But what causes areas to flourish? First and foremost economic incentive is needed. It is followed by new businesses, trading partners and inhabitants. Education, RDI investments and international co-operation are also needed.
The New North already possesses areas and economic incentives from which to grow. For sure it is not an easy place for new arrivals and especially the Arctic will never be a big draw for southern settlers.
Nevertheless, Smith seems to be sure, that the areas north from the 45° N parallel will integrate with the rest of the world in many ways. We northerners hope of course that the importance of these areas is recognized and supported with sustainable decisions related to boosting regional competitiveness.
These decisions should be done based on the future prospects of this area. For ages the settlers have moved from North to South and from East to West. But the times have changed: we have already seen the rise of the Asian countries.
If Smith is right, within the next 40 years we will see the rise of the NORCs.