The Arctic ice is melting faster than expected. This is opening up the Northwest Passage for the movement of goods and will make it easier to explore the area. Some estimate that 20-25% of the world’s remaining gas and oil could be found there not to mention a wealth of minerals. The surrounding countries are all vying for their piece of the polar pie: Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway.
There is no question we need energy to fuel our lives and businesses. But like nuclear power, petroleum extraction and usage can cost us dearly. The oil spill in the Mexican Gulf and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster are good examples. Our thirst for all things energy-intensive however, has not waned, even while we see pictures of polar bears on thin ice and seagulls covered in black slime.
So how sustainable is it to extract oil from this Arctic region? The jury is out writing their reports as Russian troops set up outposts along their Arctic coast to protect their presumed part of the loot.
Though far away from our own backyards, (Out of sight out of mind?) the subject should remain in the blogosphere, in the newspapers and on TV. This historically hostile yet awe-inspiring place, undergoing dramatic climate changes, is becoming more and more accessible. (Here you can see the dramatic changes of just the last 30 years.) There is a very human element as well. It is home to 40 to 50 distinct Indigenous Peoples.
A sustainability report about efforts to diminish the impact on this region, the local people and fauna is a start, but is it enough? Once the digging begins, it will be hard to pull out. Jonathon Porrit makes a very convincing argument that we can manage without nuclear power in this response to a posting by George Manbiot. Can someone do the same about drilling for Arctic oil?
If not, because heaps of money is at stake, it will be the precious landscape and animals that will bear the brunt of our greed, I mean need.