Straddling the Arctic circle of Fennoscandia, Sápmi is home to Europe's last self governing indigenous people, the Sámi. A christmas card take on this group is that of one sheltered from the terrors of modern day culture, tending to their family troop of reindeer under the swirling lights of the Aurora. In reality, the herds of reindeer now number up to 15,000 heads, often corralled using helicopters, quad bikes and skidoos, modern methods of otherwise ancient upkeep.
Technologically switched on yes, but no less deeply tied to the boreal tundras and pine forests. The northern forests are shared with remotely operated silvicultural robots, cutting, ripping, stripping and packaging trees within the space of 5 minutes for the industrial scale forestry conglomerates. An efficient exploitation of the forests resources, but one which is increasing revealed to have damaging impacts on the rest of the forest flora and fauna. The trenches cut into the moss and lichen carpets repress future regeneration of natural trees and plants, also deteriorating the grazing grounds (guohton in lapon) of the reindeer.
A deeply entrenched knowledge of vegetative regeneration, snowfall and grazing impacts all guide the movements of the Sámi and their herds, as opposed to the emotionless claws of the multisaw machines. It is encouraging to see that this indigenous culture is at the forefront of Nordic forest policy and folklore poetry, but the case for experience based knowledge as opposed to economic based extraction is far from won.
Over this festive period, remember that the reindeer pulling that sleigh are fighting an uphill battle day in day out, so this year, leave an extra carrot. Merry Christmas readers!