Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 234

Large-Scale Disaster Response in the Arctic: Are We Ready? Lessons from the Literature on Wicked Policy Problems Rebecca Pincus The cruise liner Crystal Serenity plans to conduct a cruise from Alaska to New York in August 2016. This will be, by far, the largest commercial cruise transit of the Northwest Passage ever attempted. The journey raises questions about the capacity of governments to respond to a large-scale environmental or human disaster in the Arctic maritime realm. Mass rescue operations in the Arctic are technically complicated by the extreme cold and enormous distances present in the region, and operationally complicated by governance challenges, including multiple and overlapping jurisdictions, networks of responders, and state-to-state variations in capacity, commitment, and funding schemes for disaster response. The challenges of disaster response policy in the Arctic make this issue a “wicked” policy problem. Wicked policy problems pose special challenges to policymakers. This class of public policy problems involves a diversity of stakeholders holding varying interpretations of causes and solutions, and is closely interconnected with many other problems. The theory and literature that have developed around wicked problems offer a number of lessons about how actors and networks address these complex governance challenges. This paper will address the challenge of effective disaster response in the Arctic, using the analytic framework of wicked problems. First, the wicked aspects of disaster response in the Arctic will be analyzed, using the Crystal Serenity as a case study; second, lessons from the literature that identify strategies for managing wicked problems will be identified; finally, the paper will draw practical conclusions about readiness in the Arctic. Introduction On August 16, 2016, the Crystal Serenity will depart Seward, Alaska, en route to New York City. The cruise liner will turn north, pass through the Bering Strait, and bear east through the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas before entering Canadian waters and the Northwest Passage.1 With nearly 2000 individuals aboard (passengers and crew), this will be the first large cruise liner to transit the Arctic. The next-largest transit, just a quarter of the size of the Crystal Serenity, was made in 2012 by The World, Rebecca Pincus is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Maritime Policy at the United States Coast Guard Academy, and