Thursday, August 02, 2007

Looming subseabed cold war

Is it a sign of the times we live?

Exactly fifty years ago when the international community declared that 1957 would be the International Geophysical Year, this triggered the adoption in 1959 of the Antarctic Treaty whereby all nations' territorial claims on the sixth continent were frozen. It was a sign of peace and international co-operation-- a sign of hope in the middle of the Cold War. And years later, pursuant to a hectic worldwide environmental advocacy campaign co-ordinated by my friend and Varda Group colleague Kelly Rigg, a protocol to the treaty was signed in Madrid to prevent for at least 50 years the exploitation of mineral resources on the Antarctic continent and adjacent waters.

Fifty years later, the Cold War is over. But the Oil War is raging. Do you know that the year 2007-08 was declared the fourth International Polar Year? Probably not, but I'm sure you've heard today that 2007 is likely to mark the beginning of a looming Subseabed Cold War: Russia has planted its flag on the mineral resources of the Arctic subseabed.

The most depressing aspect of this story is that -- whereas we keep hearing grand statements from governments and the private sector [and NGOs!] about sustainable development as the new paradigm -- the truth is that today it is unlikely the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol would be realistic propositions in our contemporary energy-hungry world.

By the way, I was born in 1957. And I hate birthday parties.

[If you wonder from where Russia, and Canada, are going to get in the middle of the Arctic the huge amounts of energy that will be required to mine the Arctic seabed, scroll down on the right-hand side of this blog until you bump into "Floating Nuclear Reactors" in the Labels section. Read it all, and remember...anything that floats is bound to sink!]

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