The new battle for North Pole supremacy – VPRO documentary

vpro documentary
Published on Mar 29, 2019

Why is the North Pole of interest for superpowers? What is it, that makes the North Pole so attractive that superpowers fight for supremacy? Climate change on the North Pole has not only caused more water, but also the possibility for ships to sail on new routes. A documentary that shows how the North pole has become a new battlefield, where superpowers look for economic growth and the Arctic people try to survive.

The ice in the North Pole is melting due to climate change, which also means that waterways are released in the summer that leads ships to raw materials that could not be extracted in earlier days. A run of superpowers on nickel and gold mines has sharpened geopolitical relationships and has major consequences for the lives of the Arctic people. A report in pictures, by photographers Kadir van Lohuizen and Yuri Kozyrev.

The Russian photographer Yuri Kozyrev and the Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen traveled to the North Pole. The two photographers explored different areas. They recorded their journey in photos and on video and talked to the people they met along the way. Van Lohuizen visited the western part of the Arctic, where he meets the original inhabitants of the North Pole – the Inuit. They take him on a whale hunt and explain how the melting ice threatens their livelihood. He also travels with the Canadian army and joins the US Coast Guard at the North Pole, which monitors the shipping routes that have resulted out of the melting ice.

Military presence is growing as in the Arctic the battle for oil, gas, and minerals has begun. And this goes fast: especially the Russian part of the Arctic is changing at lightning speed. Ports are being built at a rapid pace and the Russians are building ice breakers in large numbers, so that container ship is able to sail on this new shipping routes in three weeks from China to Norway.

Photojournalist Yuri Kozyrev visits this fast-changing Russian Part: he sees the gas fields of the Russian gas company Gazprom, which are exploited with the latest techniques and he visits the Marine Academy, where young Russian recruits are trained. The boys, sometimes children, are taught about the climate and the handling of a gun, while they sing about the hero role they will play in the future.

Gazprom and the nomadic Nenets, who has been traveling through the polar regions for many years, are on the same ground. But this co-existence seems to be no longer balanced, as the melting North Pole offers economic opportunities but also threatens the lives of the original inhabitants. And the lives of everyone on this planet. What seems far away and out of sight is in fact really essential for mankind, then the North Pole ice functions as a kind of air conditioning for the Earth. Not doing anything is not an option.

With Kadir van Lohuizen (photojournalist), Yuri Kozyrev (photojournalist) and David Barber (climate scientist).

This documentary was created by the photographers Kadir Van Lohuizen and Yuri Kozyrev, with support from The Carmignac Foundation. This fund supports research-oriented photo-journalistic projects with regard to human rights violations and the impact of climate change.

Original title: Verovering van de Noordpool

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2019.
© VPRO Backlight March 2019

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