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Geographies of Russia: Lecture 5. “What happens if permafrost is going to vanish? Interactions of pastoralism and environmental change in Russia and Mongolia” by Prof. Dr J. Otto Habeck

Friday 9 February, 18:30 - 20:30

| £5

We continue our series of lectures on the Geographies of Russia that showcase various aspects of geography, covering environmental issues, socio-economic and cultural geography, the geography of the Arctic and the culture of the indigenous peoples of Siberia.

Prof. Dr. J. Otto HabeckToday’s talk will illustrate how permafrost has shaped livelihoods in Siberia and northern Mongolia in ecologically, economically and culturally significant ways. 

Thawing permafrost has received large media coverage over the last decade: numerous reports speak of thawing permafrost and its consequences, in particular for Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar North. Such reports, however, seldom discuss how humans came to “live with” permafrost, utilise the environmental conditions of permafrost landscapes and occasionally modify these landscapes. Pastoralism – animal husbandry and reindeer herding – is of key importance here. Based on three examples (Central Yakutia, northern Mongolia, and the tundra areas near the Polar Urals), this presentation will show how different types of pastoralism interact with permafrost landscape dynamics, and how they will fare in future decades.

How does permafrost affect reindeer herding? Here are some examples of direct and indirect effects, visualized by Noémie Ross (https://blogs.egu.eu/divisions/cr/2016/09/). The “Frozen-Ground Cartoons” provide an example of communicating research findings to a wide audience. For the full story, see https://frozengroundcartoon.com/english/

Scientific interest in this topic has seen an upsurge over the last years. With support by the International Permafrost Association, Otto Habeck co-founded of the Action Group “Permafrost and Culture” (2014-2019). Currently he is member of the IPA Action Group “Permafrost and Agro-Ecosystems”, established in 2022. He also participates in the Horizon-2020 research project CHARTER, funded by the European Commission. 

Prof. Dr. J. Otto Habeck

Prof. Dr. J. Otto Habeck

Otto Habeck received his PhD degree from Cambridge University in 2004. He then worked as coordinator of the Siberian Studies Centre at the Max Planck Institute in Halle, Germany. Since 2014, he is professor at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Hamburg. His research interests comprise land use in northern regions, environmental change, agriculture and pastoralism, symbolic aspects of the built environment, gender relations, mobility and lifestyle. He conducted field research in different regions of Siberia, in the northern part of European Russia, in Mongolia and the Polish-German border area. 

Otto Habeck co-edited Ruinen und vergessene Orte [Ruins and Lost Places], Transcript Publishers (2023), open access. Earlier, he edited Lifestyle in Siberia and the Russian North, OpenBook Publishers (2019). He has published on climate change and land use: most recently, he contributed to the article “Critical Seasonal Conditions in the Reindeer-Herding Year” by Roza Laptander and co-authors, in Polar Science (2023). 


WHEN: Friday, 9 February, 18:30 – 20:30
WHERE:  Scott Polar Research Institute Lecture Theatre, Cambridge and online via Zoom
LANGUAGE: English.
TICKETSbook via allevents –Free for CamRuSS members and concessions: students, OAPs, children, and people on Universal credit, £5 for non-members.


Friday 9 February
18:30 - 20:30


Scott Polar Research Institute Lecture Theatre, Cambridge



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