Choosing to Get Involved: Interview with Michael Carey


Michael Carey is relatively new to UArctic, but his energy and fresh ideas are already leaving a mark. He is a member of the UArctic President’s Cabinet, a group of individuals who provide advice and support in philanthropic fundraising for the network, and also the initiator of the UArctic Entrepreneurship Fund which boosts the creation of innovation and local solutions aiming for positive impact.


By Hannele Palviainen, Philanthropic Communications Coordinator, UArctic


Becoming engaged in northern issues was never an obvious choice for Michael. As a southerner from the Arctic perspective, as he puts it, he did not have a natural buoyancy or attraction to the region and only cursory knowledge about it. A trip to a friend’s wedding in Iceland a few years ago was the first step in changing that – though perhaps in an unexpected way.

“Being there in Iceland I thought ‘wow, this is pretty awesome.’ I have traveled a lot, but there was just something special about this place where everyone spoke to me in the local language instead of getting scared when I walk in, and where I didn't get sunburned. I told my wife a bunch of times that this is my native land, my place,” he jokes. “But it stuck in my mind. Down the line, when the actual opportunity to support UArctic came around thanks to that same friend, it triggered something that brought it all together.”

Although the Arctic itself might not have been on Michael’s radar, he has always cared about the environmental challenges that humankind is facing. He has been especially interested in climate change and alternative energy even during his school years. Now, he is turning his attention to what could be done about the challenges.

“The risks and the changes that are affecting the Arctic are a harbinger for what's coming for the rest of us. There's a unique opportunity here to focus on human-wide solutions – not just academic, not just political, but everyone working together. Of particular interest to me is the ability for the industry and the scientific community to come together to look for solutions as they relate to the Arctic. In a lot of ways, this region is a test lab for us to try to conquer some of these issues before they become giant global problems. Obviously, the issues facing the Arctic are global issues already, but a lot of people don't look at it this way. That's what I see as an opportunity: to test new technologies, community solutions, environmental solutions in a place where the change is already rapidly happening.”

Coming from the world of start-ups, Michael is keen on fostering early ideas that can have a positive impact. Kicking off the UArctic Entrepreneurship Fund has therefore been a logical way for him to support the North and its communities. But just like he did not have a pre-existing interest in the Arctic, promoting northern innovation and development was not a life-long dream either. Michael did, however, see it as a chance to put his skills and capacities to good use.

“I think you can either choose to be someone who cares, or someone who doesn't care. That means you choose to get involved, or you don't get involved. When I first met with UArctic leadership, we all saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between industry and academia; a way that UArctic could be uniquely positioned to encourage ideas for solving problems in the Arctic. The Arctic is already experiencing a lot of challenges that you're not going to find anywhere else, so any solutions that we create or support at the early stage could have an outsized impact for the rest of the world.”

“You can't do everything, so it's good to know where your expertise is. I'm not an academic or a politician. I've become successful in business; that's my strength. As a volunteer, if you want to give of your time, your talent, your treasure, the best is having a combination of all three. In my case, I felt I was in a position to give that support to UArctic, so I did.”

“The outcome that I hope to see is twofold. First, I want to actually have an impact on the issues facing our world as it relates to climate change. Not only is that a great benefit to the Arctic, but it's also a selfish benefit for all of humankind – it will help everyone. The second thing I want is to create a can-do attitude and a belief in industry within the communities of the North. This region has always been economically underserved, but with the global challenges facing the world, there could be a lot of opportunity. Just like the first place to ever design solar panels; any kind of breakthrough technology brings a lot of economic benefit to the areas where it's done. The Arctic has the opportunity to do that for the challenges that are coming to face us now.”

Since his first introduction to the network three years ago, Michael has gradually become more and more engaged in UArctic. There was “no one special magic thing” that made the relationship work, he says, but a few unique features have stood out over time.

“What I like a lot about UArctic is that it’s truly global in nature. There's no real political stuff it has to deal with, and it’s not biased towards any particular nation or their issues. As an entrepreneur, I also appreciate that UArctic is very aspirational and risk-taking. You don't find that in a lot of organizations who expect your ideas to fit in their box. UArctic is a much more living organization, in my opinion, and that's what makes it special.”