Skip to main content

International Relations 422: Ecological Security and Global Politics

Summer 2016 in Iceland, Norway, and Finland
Professor:  Steven Lamy
Dates TBA

The 4-unit PWP course explores the complex issues surrounding climate change and its impact on the Arctic region through one week of class study and three weeks of field work in Iceland (Reykjavik and Akureyri), Norway (Oslo and Tromsø), and Finland (Inari, Rovaniemi, and Helsinki).

The popular view of the Arctic as a region of frozen solitude and remote beauty is now quickly yielding to a more complex series of images: a bellwether of climate change, as the polar ice caps shrink; an energy bonanza, as exploration for oil and gas riches long imagined now become accessible; the venue for a new tourist industry alongside expanded commercial shipping, as the dream of a Northwest (and Northeast) passage becomes a reality; and a zone of interstate  confrontation, as all the preceding push the Arctic powers to expanded territorial claims.

These developments raise multiple policy issues. How can conflicting national interests be reconciled? Are current treaties sufficient to protect the fragile Arctic ecosystem from the degradation of petroleum prospecting and commercial shipping? How will the infrastructure to deal with oil spills or maritime incidents be built? Who will defend the interests of the traditional peoples of the Arctic regions? A rudimentary international legal framework exists, from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to the committees of the ad hoc Arctic Council. But it is just that—promising, yet rudimentary—and only beginning to negotiate the many conflicting positions of the main Arctic powers: the U.S., Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark. Will these positions on territorial, economic and environmental issues harden into confrontation, or can the Arctic become the locus of a successful new regime of “global governance”?

The task for students—after an intense week of preparation at USC—will be to explore these issues with diplomatic, energy, environmental and other experts in six settings (Reykjavik, Akureyri, Oslo, Tromsø, Inari, and Rovaniemi) as prelude to drafting a coherent set of policy recommendations.

The course syllabus is available here.

More information:

Program Costs:

Tuition: $6,664 [4-units]

Travel: $1,400 [LAX-Reykjavik departure; return Helsinki-LAX]

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additional expenses: $1,000*

*Additional expenses include  meals and personal expenses (which vary considerably from student to student).


The 2016 application is due no later than 12 PM on Friday, February 12th, 2016 to ADM 304. The application and instructions are available here; please use your completed application as a cover sheet and attach all of the required documents to it. No incomplete applications will be accepted.


The first information session will be held Friday, January 29th at 2:00 pm in VKC 300.


Students participating in this program may apply for a research stipend of up to $3,000 through SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fund). Please see the SURF website for details on eligibility at:

Graduating seniors are not eligible for SURF.


For further information on this course, contact Danika Newlee at