Arctic Oil, Arctic Change: A Threefold Framework for Evaluating Pressures for Rural Oil and Gas Extraction in Alaska and the Northwest Territories

  • Author / Creator
    Schober, Kelsey
  • Oil has driven migration, community growth, and governance of the last century in the North. Today, as Arctic global warming surpasses 1°C with “profound consequences” (IPCC, 2019) for the North, the relationship between oil and climate change cannot be ignored. In light of this tension, this research asks: how is oil development structurally and politically incentivized, even as the North faces disproportionate impacts of climate change that directly threaten the cultures, infrastructure, and economies of communities? More specifically: what roles do governing bodies and institutional mandates – as well as dominant power structures such as settler colonialism – play in ensuring oil extraction continues? Using comparative approaches, this work answers these questions from a Northern perspective, animated by frameworks of settler colonialism, clientelism, and rural theory. Methodologically, this research utilizes relevant academic literature and primary documents that detail land arrangements, policy changes, and power dynamics within relationships in order to re-situate the complex nature of policies, underlying values, and relational considerations that entrench oil extraction in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. This research finds that though policy incentives provide opportunities for oil and gas extraction, rurality and the settler colonial state’s emphasis on extraction as a value create a mandate for oil and gas extraction. Clientelist relationships between Indigenous corporations and the oil and gas industry further extraction, but function as a way of maximizing opportunity within present scenarios for the client rather than as a form of soft corruption on the part of the patron, as it is often characterized. Overall, this research challenges the limited scope
    of the environment vs. development binary often applied to understanding oil and gas extraction in the North, concluding instead that concepts of rights and sovereignty offer more accuracy to understanding oil and gas extraction in the Northwest Territories and Alaska. Ultimately, these results have implications for understanding how ongoing oil extraction can be reconciled with climate change in a region that is ground zero for both, as well as understanding broader systems of political power and political development across the North.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.