All posts by Mary Durfee

Silvana Bartoletto, Energy Transitions in the Mediterranean (Cheltenham: E. Elgar, 2020)

Economic historian Bartoletto has written a short overview of energy use in the Mediterranean. Her primary interest is in showing how energy transitions happen and where the states in and around the Mediterranean are relative to the transition from hydrocarbons to renewable sources. The book includes discussion of the entire Mediterranean rather than just parts of it, which allows some comparison of strategies and challenges. The region has states like Algeria with huge oil and gas resources, states with new-found off-shore fields like Israel, and places with little or no hydrocarbon resources like Malta.

The book has five chapters and a conclusion. Most of data end with 2016, though some of the discussions includes information as late as 2018. Chapter 1 compares the countries on their economies and energy use. That data helps inform later chapters. Chapter 2 considers energy price dynamics, production and trade. The ups and downs of conflict, oil prices, and various political events drive the discussion and set up the third chapter on energy security concerns of the different countries. Chapter 4 on energy transitions and energy efficiency is the core of the book. It defines the concept and looks at past transitions in the region. Transitions have phases, as countries switch from older fuels to newer ones. Technological innovation slowly improves the performance of the new technology and associated technological systems change as well. That leads to more economic productivity (though not necessarily environmental health). Chapter 5 looks at renewables and CO2 emissions, again in a comparative perspective. The conclusion notes that strong energy demand in the region will naturally have an impact on environmental policies elsewhere to limit climate change everywhere. The author summarizes how some of the Mediterranean countries are responding.

The volume would have been enhanced if more attention had been paid to specific policies, including more indirect ones, used by the Mediterranean. For example, the author notes increased emissions in Malta, but did not note that one reason for this was to allow more (less polluting) cars into Malta. There is no mention of the serious security discussion there about whether to close the oil-based Marsa power plant in favour of getting power from Italy. The plant was closed in 2017/18, but power cuts to the line (happening after the book was written) have caused it to be reopened. It has a very intensive demand for energy due to five desalinization plants. Yet that country has an energy and reduced greenhouse gasses plan that is being executed: An LNG gasification plant is now in operation and, like other parts of the Mediterranean, many households use solar energy and food waste.

The book is easy to read and understand. The Mediterranean as a case region makes good sense. The region offers developing countries, energy-rich and poor countries, and highly technological ones.

Kamrul Hossain, José Miguel Roncero Martín and Anna Petrétei (eds.), Human and Societal Security in the Circumpolar Arctic (Leiden and Boston: Brill Nijhoff, 2018)

This well-conceived edited volume offers new research and analysis on human security in the Scandinavian and Russian Arctic. The editors sought to inform national and local policy as decision-makers and citizens plan for the future. The book uses many disciplines and methods to get at the dimensions of human security. In so doing, the volume illustrates how those who live in the Arctic—indigenous or not—respond to the opportunities and threats to human security in the region.

The book is divided into 5 parts: an extended essay on the central theme, as well as a conclusion. Parts 2, 3, 4 cut at the issues by putting the “local” into different contexts. Part 2 concerns local actors and governance frameworks. Part 3 switches scale and considers local implications of global developments. Part 4 then considers identity and values. Taken together the volume achieves its goal of being useful to those interested in refashioning Arctic policy and law to better facilitate human security.

The editors use the definition of societal security used by the Copenhagen School in security studies: “’sustainability, within acceptable conditions for evolution, of traditional patterns of language, culture, and religious and national identity and custom’ of a society. “Evolution” means the local society makes meaningful choices that work in their place rather than adapting to decisions made far away and with little input from the community. Security for communities produces deep security. The crucial claim in the book is that if communities can make their own security in important ways, then national security is largely sustained.

The policy side Arctic states each have policies for the Arctic. The thorough and thoughtful discussion by Martín in Chapter 2 of the policies, however, highlights the mismatch between what is good for the territorial state and what might be good for human security. The central problem is that national policies rarely multiply cultural and institutional options. Indeed they may weaken communities by undermining (sometimes literally) the economic security of a city or a herding community.

Alexander Sergunin continues that point by showing how Russian Arctic policy supports or hinders human security and sustainable development. In official policy both are to be enhanced. But, the federal bureaucracy usually resists or hinders local initiative rather than “using the resources of these actors in a creative way” (63). He pursues the gap between municipalities and the national level through a discussion of major city plans for human security and sustainable development. Even cities, however, mostly emphasize economic and environmental issues rather than the security of individuals.

Colonialism remains a governance reality. Sara Nyhlén, Katarina Nygren, Anna Olofsson and Johanna Bergström use a technique from feminist theory, intersectionalism, as a method to look at Swedish Arctic policy discourse. The discourses favor the state through claims, metaphors, and assumptions:

  • Claims of discovery over indigenous presence.
  • Mobilizing metaphors that shape problem representation, for example that sustainable development reduces risk and promotes economic development (in which central experts matter more than local ones).
  • Colonial assumptions that states are the only legitimate form of organization and that states cooperate.

Once unpacked, the discourses can be connected to power to act or not. Change the discourse and new human security-centered policy might be possible.

Wilfred Greaves continues the theme of colonization of Sapmi (the region where the Sami live in Scandinavia and Russia) by looking at policy over a long-time frame. Control over Sapmi and the Sami was part of Norway’s effort to establish itself as a sovereign state rather than a part of Sweden or Denmark. It was a matter of national security to put the Sámi under Norwegian control lest they ally themselves with other emerging states or abandon the borderlands. The Sami almost never resisted the efforts from further south and the policy of Norwegianization. By the 1970s, however, growing support for indigenous culture led Samí to claim they were rights holders who had a right to their own culture. Samí in Norway do not seek autonomy, so the colonial project is still at work, but they do negotiate frequently over government plans for their lands. They have also shown that “going green” is often a threat to human security of the Sami.

Michael Sheehan focuses on how different conceptions of territoriality produced conflict between Sami and Sweden’s construction of the ESRANGE launch site to put rockets into outer space. The Swedish government thought it wilderness. For the Sami, it represented numerous spaces for reindeer herding and other cultural activities. The author explains why Sweden chose space exploration and how the launch site connected to broader European space institutions, but were blind to Sami institutions. For example, rather than understanding Sami herding practices, Sweden responded to Sami concerns by imagining the communities were worried about personal security and offering blast protection sites to use.

The six chapters in part 3 are devoted to resource extraction. It begins with a critique of how states ‘cost’ things by Corinna Casi. Most states use economic cost/benefit analysis. They assign a price to clean air or freedom of movement and then decide on the most beneficial use. Casi argues the approach is misguided and not suitable for creating, preserving, or sustaining human security. Some environmental and human values can’t be priced effectively. Moreover, humans are more than consumers who buy and sell. Listening and finding solutions through discussion are better than seeing markets everywhere.

That critique is followed by how Arctic communities might get better discussion. Satu Rantu-Tyrkkö argues that social work could reduce risks of metal mining in Finland, if it would be more futures oriented by including intergenerational justice and responsibilities. Julia Loginova follows with her study local perceptions of security in Pripechor’e, Russia, a Komi-Izhuma community seeing considerable oil and gas development. The Komi-Izhuma have complex notions of security. When they sought to include this complexity in policy and plans, the government was deaf to them. As a consequence, they changed strategies and have demanded land and other rights from an oil firm rather than the national government.

Gerald Zojer argues that the discourse of sustainable development is too tied to the market to provide much human security. His evidence is based on discourse analysis of Arctic Council ministerial meetings. That discourse shifted from environmental concerns to market ones that emphasize the use of the region’s natural resources. In the shift the governments talked of human development through economic development. While it is possible that hydrocarbon development will help Arctic communities, it is not especially likely because formal markets do not recognize the benefits of the informal economies that are being displaced.

Hossain and Petrétei develop the evolutionary theme. They conceive Arctic society as a transnational one, but where all the communities are experience similar environmental and economic pressures. For resource extraction to promote human and societal security, policy would have to bring in environmental and sociopolitical responsibility.

The chapter by Stefan Kirchner argues law might help others find their responsibility to the Sami responsibility. He argues that the Sami of Finland have avenues to resist or shape government policy. While few Sami hold their areas as property, they do have procedural access to changing policy in areas of concern to them. For example, reindeer will not feed near power-generating windmills, but by using their procedural rights to participate, better policy might be possible in that new area as well as in subsoil mining.

Part 4 has four articles using a variety of cultural approaches to understanding human security. Helene Peterbauer and José Martín apply literary analysis to works about Svalbard. The chapter could be usefully read along with those in Section 1, notably Greaves. Some literature makes appeals to restore Sami culture, another type takes up a minority within the Sami as the theme. Traditional security themes from the Cold War, e.g. Soviet miners were really Soviet soldiers, told a different story about threats to Norway.


Tahnee Prior argues that a bottom up approach to understanding human (in)security would be useful and points to efforts to tell individual stories through blogs and other digital means. Digital storytelling can reveal relationships between gender and security.

Elena Busyreva interviewed descendants of Finns who migrated to the Kola peninsula in Russia to understand what was left of their culture. Most lost the Finnish language in a number of ways (policy, marriage…). The religious elements, while weakened by the closure of all Lutheran churches, survived in family traditions. Material culture carried over in housing design and the all-important sauna.

The last chapter in this part presents a research project by Tatiana Zhigaltsova where children drew maps and pictures of where they went during the day and also their most and least favorite places. Most of the Russian young intend to leave as soon as they are old enough…a problem for many Arctic communities. The results could improve planning on how to encourage the young to stay.

In sum, the book will speak to many researchers and policy makers. The sheer diversity empirical approaches and examples enhances Arctic scholarship. The solid use of shifting levels of analysis advances theory.