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Discussing the North, Natural Resources, and the Ocean’s ‘Faux’ Diamonds

April 7, 2017

Roberta Bondar Fellow, Professor Rafico Ruiz delivers lecture at the annual The North at Trent series

“In lots of ways, we can think about icebergs as the ocean’s faux diamonds. They reflect the brilliance of the maritime skies but they also are developing as northern natural resources,” explained Dr. Rafico Ruiz during his lecture for the North at Trent series on March 30 at Traill College.

Professor Ruiz, a world-renowned scholar on icebergs, was appointed Trent University’s 2015-2017 Roberta Bondar Fellow in Northern and Polar Studies. During his lecture, he focused on icebergs as emerging grey resources, which are “equally implicated in the ambiguous ethical shadow of anthropogenic climate change through glacial melt, as well as important secondary resources for the safe operation of oil and gas installations on the North Atlantic.”

He explained that over the past two decades, icebergs have progressively emerged as a sought after commodity. His current research considers how the commodification of these natural phenomena highlight the grey ethical and environmental modalities underpinning the consolidation of a northern natural resource.

Prof. Ruiz explained that in Twillingate, Newfoundland, considered the iceberg capital of the world, “icebergs are an import element of the local economy, but there is also an ethical ambiguity today.” While there is a perceived relationship with global warming and the fear it could lead to rising seawaters, locals in Newfoundland have capitalized on their popularity with iceberg vodka and different luxury-branded waters. Under increasingly widespread conditions of water scarcity, he said various corporate and state actors are turning to North Atlantic icebergs as a potential water source to address a future with fewer and more expensive sources of water.

The North at Trent 2017 Lecture Series is sponsored by the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, the Roberta Bondar Fellowship in Northern & Polar Studies and Jon and Shelagh Grant. The series wraps up April 6 at Bagnani Hall with Dr. Ben Fitzhugh, director, Quaternary Research Center, and Associate Professor, Anthropology at the University of Washington. Professor Fitzhugh will address Arctic warming, coastal erosion, and the catastrophic loss of scientific and cultural understanding.