Each fall, Iceland hosts an international conference on issues and opportunities in the far north. The Arctic Circle Conference brings together an in impressive list of national leaders and diplomats, scientists and academics: this year’s dignitary list included the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson; the President of France, François Hollande; Prince Albert II of Monaco; Premier Philippe Couillard of Québec; Senator Angus King, of Maine; and ambassadors and other government officials from China, Germany, Japan, and other nations.
The US Geological Survey estimates that as much as thirty percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and thirteen per cent of its oil may lie in the Arctic, along with enormous reserves of minerals under the snow and ice. Developing these resources, without damaging the ecosystem of the Arctic or wiping out the indigenous cultures of the region is one of the challenges faced by nations of the north.
Reykjavik University plays an important part in hosting the conference. One of the initial sessions, on energy security, was held on campus; the President of Iceland opened the session and participated in the presentations. He also spoke briefly with students from Reykjavik University, Harvard, and Tufts University who were in attendance, and paused for this photo.
Even at its most formal, the conference had a distinct air of informality. As one of my classmates from Italy put it: