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The outside view of the Arctic is of a place of mythic notions and proportions. Many consider it wild, remote, untouched, and unattainable - a place only few would occupy by choice. It is the place of the Aurora, polar bear, narwhal, 24-hour light and 24-hour darkness, ice, and other things that seem fantastical, romantic and mysterious. The North has long been a land of dreams, realized and unrealized, attracting explorers, scientists, and artists.

Despite its mythology, the Arctic is not a land untouched. It is a place of human life and human imprint. The people of the Arctic include Indigenous people, who have adapted for millennia, recent arrivals, hunters and herders living on and with the land and city dwellers. It crosses international and artificial boundaries. The inside view of the Arctic is a place of adaptation, complex landscapes, and diverse people. It is the opposite of nothingness.

"North" is relative to each point and perspective. The Arctic, however, is north of everywhere. Home to some four million people, the limits of the Arctic are difficult to define, but the primary parameter is the cold. The political, rather than the scientific or the 66-degrees-of-latitude-or-higher Arctic, extends further, as far south as Maine in the US and Scotland in the UK. "North" has long been a definition associated with both opportunity and periphery.

For centuries, the Northwest Passage was a European dream, a spectacular vision of a sea route through the Arctic that could link Europe to the riches of Asia. When finally charted, the Passage was still closed to all but nuclear-powered icebreakers. But now, this land and its resources are unlocked, largely due to a warming and changing climate. New realities and new Arctic visions lie somewhere in between the present and the future. The world's superpowers and the world's attention are pointed north. The view from up here is of a globe that watches the Arctic adapting to change.


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