Considering ecological security from the perspective of Arctic ecosystemic politics

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This brief essay is part of a book forum on Matt McDonald's book (2021) presenting the idea of ecological security. In the essay, I reflect on progress and prospects for Arctic cooperation and governance in order to consider the promise and limitations of McDonald’s ecological security framework. The Arctic is an instructive example for such an exploration. The longstanding post-Cold War cooperation in the Arctic is strongly rooted in an appreciation of the interconnected nature of the Arctic ecosystem, even as the governance mechanisms remain far from what would qualify as an ecological security approach in McDonald’s sense. Nonetheless, I suggest that especially two aspects are instructive from the Arctic example. The first relates to how ecological security would potentially interface with an already quite full landscape of governance practices rooted in ecosystems, and associated power political genealogies and effects. The second point is a reflection on unfolding events, seeking to explore how continued inputs from other forms of security governance could impact on emerging or partial attempts to govern with an ecological security perspective. Here, the status of Arctic cooperative governance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an illustrative example to consider. Both points can be read as impediments limiting the applicability of the ecological security framework. However, as McDonald argued, impediments are not the same as absolute limits (2021, 192) and potential obstacles are explored here in the spirit of advancing possibilities for ecological security.