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Moving to the North Pole after Trump’s inauguration is easy — if you can cope

Cat Cooke, 31, owns an extremely cool business that books and handles logistics for bands on tour. And she runs it from one of the most extremely cool places on Earth, emigrating there in August with no more hassle than a tourist buying a plane ticket.

The United Kingdom native is an ideal example of what the masses threatening to flee the United States after Donald Trump’s inauguration might be in for if they move to Svalbard.

Dozens of articles are recommending the archipelago about 1,250 kilometers from the North Pole among about half a dozen options but, while it may be the easiest place to move to in terms of establishing residency, Cooke said people need to learn what they’re in for living in the isolation of the world’s northernmost community.

“Even if you have the skills with your business that’s not enough,” she said. “You need to live and breathe here because it’s such a special place.”

Cooke started her business six years ago, but after visiting Svalbard in February 2016 decided it was an ideal place where she should continue doing her work while embracing a new way of life.

“I instantly got ideas about being here,” she said. “I came here because I adore this place.”

Being in the main town of Longyearbyen, a 2,000-person community on an island halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, presents some challenges since goods and facilities are limited, Cooke said. It can be harder to get equipment such as displays boards and mobile printers, but she said that’s not a serious handicap.

“The only problematic factor might be if my flight out is canceled,” she said noting she often needs to accompany bands on tour.

People like Cooke who move here are a tiny minority of residents — most get jobs at established companies or enroll at the local university. But she is the type of person that city politicians and other leaders are hoping will move here due to the near-total collapse of coal mining – the city’s main industry since it was founded in 1906 — during the past couple of years.

Because the United States is among the more than 40 countries that have signed the Svalbard Treaty, citizens can become residents here essentially by buying a plane ticket and filling out a short form at that the tax office when they arrive.

But it isn’t just the harsh Arctic conditions newcomers will have to cope with — there are very cold and harsh government rules that exist in part because of how easy it is to live here.

The following are critical tips for those seriously considering moving:

  • Open borders: You can reside here, study here, work here and/or start a business here with virtually no official interference (obviously you’ll still have to deal with building, environmental and other permitting rules).
  • Self-sufficiency: The big trade-off for this is you must be able to support yourself financially. If you’ve got a job or profitable business, great. But if you go broke, the governor will exile you — and send you a bill for the ticket if you’re unable to afford one.
  • The right stuff: As mentioned, coal mining used to be the economic foundation of this town. Now folks are looking to tourism and science research. This is both good and bad for U.S. residents looking to move here. You might have a better chance of getting a job in those industries — but with vacancies extremely limited it may only be likely if you speak Norwegian (free online lessons everywhere) and at least one other language besides English. German, French, Russian and/or Chinese are particularly valuable.
  • Sobering reality: You also can’t have any health issues that keep you from being self-sufficient, including substance addiction. So if you are rich and decide to party Like It’s 1999, then what goes on in your private home is very much the government’s business.

Those restrictions may also apply (cruelly some argue) to the elderly and some disabled. There are healthy residents nearing 80, for example, and a young woman from Japan became the area’s first-known deaf resident a few years ago.

  • Isolation: This is a very modern society, not an indigenous village — but still a very isolated one. There is a supermarket (with vegan, gluten-free food, etc. food), a decent espresso cafe, a movie/performance theater and one of lots of other major things you’ll find in towns (indeed, maybe more than nearly any other town of 2,000 people).

The internet service is almost certainly far better than that of your evil megacorporate provider (contrary to many conservatives’ thoughts, government far outdid private industry here thanks to a worship-worthy subsea telecom cable provided by NASA). But if you’re into big-city comforts, it won’t be enough to offer fulfillment.

  • Coming out: Svalbard is a place where the population is in constant flux. The average resident stays less than six years — and that figure is skewed since there’s a lot of people who stay for a year or two and a lot of long-term residents.

As such, people tend to be more open and accepting of newcomers than you’d generally find in a small town. Nobody gives damn about same-sex couples, breast-feeding mothers and people toting guns here (the latter in particular being rather necessary for reasons about to be revealed).

But getting involved often means embracing leisure activities that includes snowmobile, ski, boating and other trips into a wilderness populated with polar bears and other unusual dangers.

And that means dealing with the oft-repeated myths of this place, like needing a rifle to fend off polar bears outside the main part of town. If you just want to work an office job and watch TV at home, life here will be a severely diminished experience.

  • Get smart: If you’re a university student in a field of science, especially related to climate change and related environmental and technical fields, you can study free at The University Centre in Svalbard — although you still have to pay housing and living expenses.

Also, be advised that Norway wants to reverse a trend toward an increasing ratio of foreign students, which might affect your chances of studying here for a year or two (as noted, you need to be a student already enrolled in a university to apply here).

On the other hand, booze is very cheap compared to the rest of Norway — but then you may have to walk a mile or 2 in a nighttime blizzard to make it back to your dorm when it’s well below zero (F or C, take your pick). 

Icepeople.net is the “world’s northernmost alternative newspaper.” This report is shared through the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.

Refuting Ted Cruz’s disinformation about climate change

Ted Cruz is decidedly at odds with the scientific consensus that Earth is warming because of human activity.

A look at some of the Republican presidential contender’s claims on the subject in New Hampshire this week and how they compare with the facts:

CRUZ: “The satellites that actually measure the temperature, that we’ve launched into the air to measure the temperature, they have recorded no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years.”

THE FACTS: Scientists, including those who work with the very satellite measuring system that Cruz refers to, say he’s misusing the satellite data. They do show warming, albeit relatively little over the period Cruz cites, says Carl Mears, senior scientist for Remote Sensing Systems, which produces the data that Cruz refers to.

But by starting his comparison period in 1997, Cruz has selected a time when temperatures spiked because of an El Niño weather pattern. Starting at an artificially high point minimizes the rate of increase since then, Mears said, adding, “If you start riding your bike at the top of a big hill, you always go downhill, at least for a while.”

More important is what’s measured at the Earth’s surface, where people live, Mears said. Those ground-based systems show a greater degree of warming.

The long-term trend that Mears’ satellites show is about 0.7-degree warming since 1979, when satellites started measuring temperature. Ground-based monitors show a warming of about 1 degree during the same period. And 1979 was not among the top five hottest or coldest years in the 36 years of records.

CRUZ: “John Kerry said in 2009 the polar ice caps will be entirely melted by 2013. … Has anyone noticed the polar ice caps are still there? In fact, there was an expedition that went down to Antarctica to prove that the polar ice caps were melting … (the ship) got stuck in the ice because in fact the polar ice caps have increased. They are larger than they were. So not only was Kerry incorrect, he was spectacularly absolutely opposite the facts.”

THE FACTS: Kerry was talking about the ice cap at the North Pole, and it’s true that it hasn’t melted as he predicted. But in pointing that out, Cruz distorts the facts by referring to a ship that got stuck in Antarctic ice a world away near the South Pole.

Scientists do say it’s only a matter of decades before the sea ice around the North Pole will be melted during the summer months, and some countries’ navies are already exploring the area for quicker sea routes. Scientific measurements in Antarctica — where thick ice sheets sit atop land, not floating on the ocean as in the Arctic — show the ice sheets are diminishing on one side while growing on the other. But the fact that a ship got stuck in ice in the Antarctica doesn’t tell us anything about the phenomenon.

CRUZ: “If you’re a big-government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.”

THE FACTS: Far from being pseudo-science, climate change is the consensus view among real scientists.

“The climate is terribly complicated, but it is now remarkably well understood because so many people have made such great efforts at developing sensors and deploying sensors and making sense of what the sensors say,” says Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, and a former Democratic congressman. “It’s not just a few fanciful models on a computer, there are real data now. This is a highly developed science.”

CRUZ: “Thirty, 40 years ago a whole bunch of liberal politicians, a bunch of scientists, were advocating, they said we were facing global cooling. We’re going to have another ice age. And their solution to this was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives. But then the facts and science stood in the way. It turned out the Earth wasn’t cooling.”

THE FACTS: Actually, global warming was more of a concern than cooling back in that time. From 1965 to 1979, 44 peer-reviewed scientific studies found the world was warming, 20 found no trend and only seven found cooling, according to a review of literature published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 2008.


Ho, ho, health: North Pole won’t block pot sales

North Pole residents can put marijuana on their Christmas list next year.

The city council in North Pole, Alaska, rejected a measure this week that would have banned marijuana dispensaries. Marijuana became legal in Alaska in February, and sales begin next year.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported even Santa Claus — yes, that’s his real name — testified in favor of selling pot in this Christmas-themed town, where light poles resemble candy canes.

Claus said he is medical marijuana patient, and he’d like to buy pot in North Pole instead of making the short drive to Fairbanks.

Some worried how others might perceive North Pole if marijuana dispensaries are allowed. But one council member noted North Pole already allows the sale of alcohol, cigarettes and guns.