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• We examine the socio-ecological dimensions of hydrocarbon development in Greenland.
• We focus on opportunities, risks, and tradeoffs in the Disko Bay region.
• We argue that risks are insufficiently understood and potentially underestimated.
• We recommend how Greenlandic resource governance arrangements can be improved.
Efforts to develop Greenland's offshore hydrocarbon resources are well underway. Research into the interrelated social and ecological dimensions of current hydrocarbon development activity, however, remains in its infancy in both Greenland and the Arctic at-large. This study draws on insights from socio-ecological resilience and political ecology scholarship to develop a baseline understanding of the socio-ecological opportunities, risks, and tradeoffs of hydrocarbon development in Greenland's Disko Bay region. Community-based interviews (n = 45), key informant interviews (n = 10), and participant observations were carried out in Ilulissat, Aasiaat, and Qeqertarsuaq, communities that together are representative of the region's biophysical and socio-economic/political diversity. The study identifies and discusses potential socio-economic development opportunities, risks of environmental degradation and social disruption, and tradeoffs between known lifeways and new livelihood prospects. It is argued that environmental change is insufficiently analyzed in government- and industry-funded impact assessments, leading decision-makers and stakeholders to endorse hydrocarbon development activities based on information that may underreport uncertainty and the extent of potential risks.
Journal: Applied Geography - Volume 46, January 2014, Pages 98–110