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Adapting to Climate Change in Reindeer Herding: The Nation-State as Problem and Solution


  • Erik S. Reinert
  • Iulie Aslaksen
  • Marie G. Eira
  • Svein Mathiesen
  • Hugo Reinert
  • Ellen Inga Turi


This paper discusses the role of nation-states and their systems of gover- nance as sources of barriers and solutions to adaptation to climate change from the point of view of Saami reindeer herders. The Saami, inhabiting the northernmost areas of Fennoscandia, is one of more than twenty ethnic groups in the circumpolar Arctic that base their traditional living on reindeer herding. Climate change is likely to affect the Saami regions severely, with winter temperatures predicted to increase by up to 7 centigrade. We argue that the pastoral practices of the Saami herders are inherently better suited to handle huge natural variation in climatic con- ditions than most other cultures. Indeed, the core of their pastoral practices and herding knowledge is skillful adaptation to unusually frequent and rapid change and variability. This paper argues that the key to handle permanent changes successfully is that herders themselves have sufficient degrees of freedom to act. Considering the similarities in herding practices in the fours nation-states between which Saami culture is now divided . Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia . the systems of governance are surprisingly different. Indeed, the very definition of what is required to be defined as an ethnic Saami is very different in the three Nordic countries. We argue that timely adjust- ments modifying the structures of governance will be key to the survival of the Saami reindeer herding culture. Since the differences in governance regimes . and the need to change national governance structures . are so central to our argument, we spend some time tracing the origins of these systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik S. Reinert & Iulie Aslaksen & Marie G. Eira & Svein Mathiesen & Hugo Reinert & Ellen Inga Turi, 2008. "Adapting to Climate Change in Reindeer Herding: The Nation-State as Problem and Solution," The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics 16, TUT Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance.
  • Handle: RePEc:tth:wpaper:16

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