What is in a logo?

What is in a logo?

Designing a logo for a research project is about visual appearance but also raises issues about every single word that the logo would feature. After much discussion, REXSAC’s logo now has the subtext Arctic Resources & Communities.

The word Arctic was important because we wanted to send a signal about where we work. While REXSAC’s focus is on case study areas in northern Sweden, Greenland and Svalbard, the context is the circumpolar north where extractive industries have played an important role historically and where the past decade has featured a boom in new explorations. The Arctic today is also part of an even larger context where global resource demand and global actors play an important role in extractive industries.

The word Resources is more ambiguous.  Usually it refers to natural resources, and in the context of extractive industries hydrocarbons and ores come to mind. Often the Arctic is said to be rich in resources. But to whom are the deposits in the ground a resource? How do they become resources? These are questions worth pondering when we try to place natural resources into a societal context. Usually it takes major investments in infrastructure to create a profitable venture out of an ore or a hydrocarbon deposit. Legal frameworks that assign ownership and other rights also need to be in place. Both infrastructure investments and legal frameworks are entwined with political processes and priorities set in social negotiations. Resources are thus constructed and their future status entangled with governance, as my REXSAC colleagues Dag Avango, Peder Roberts and I elaborated on in an article a few years ago.

But the word resources can also refer to something completely different from what can be dug out of the ground: the people, the social networks, the cultural expressions, the institutions, the knowledge, the ecosystems, infrastructure, and available financial capital. These are some of the resources that a society needs in order to function well, especially when it faces new challenges. When assessing the impacts of extractive industries, these are thus some of the issues that need to be on the agenda. How to assess such a bundle of varied resources is far from obvious but we hope that the work in REXSAC will help us build further on existing initiatives to monitor and assess human development in the Arctic, such as the Arctic Social Indicators project.

The word Communities can also have different meanings. While REXSAC as a research network aims to build a community of scholars, this is not an end in itself. The intended focus is instead on the local communities that face decisions about extractive industries and have to engage in discussions with companies, government agencies, environmental organizations, and researchers. An important aim of the project is to work together with local communities to develop tools that enhance their capacity to meet the demands that come with ideas about new industrial developments. Can an extractive industry be a resource to help build a community that is sustainable beyond the economic life span of the mine or drilling operation? What would it take to do so? What are the alternatives for today’s political decision makers?

REXSAC is about Arctic resources and communities. Let’s see what meaning we put into those words in five years’ time.

Annika E. Nilsson

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Annika E Nilsson

Stockholm Environment Institute

E-mail: annika.nilsson@sei-international.org