Glendale College's Student Magazine
Tuesday October 24th 2017

Arctic Drilling: Who has the right to destroy the environment?

photo of arctic ice by Dieuwertje KastSanta Claus may be wondering who his new landlord is going to be as several world nations are staking their claim to the region known as North Pole.

The reason for the interest in the frozen tundra is that according to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billions barrels of natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas believed to potentially have petroleum.

“Of the estimated totals, more than half of the undiscovered oil resources are estimated to occur in just three geologic provinces – Arctic Alaska, the Amerasia Basin, and the East Greenland Rift Basins. On an oil-equivalency basis, undiscovered natural gas is estimated to be three times more abundant than oil in the Arctic. More than 70 percent of the undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in three provinces – the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basins, and Arctic Alaska,” according to the 2008 U.S.G.S. study.

“Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise and an oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on earth. The risks of such an accident are ever present and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate,” according to the Greenpeace website.

Additionally, as the ice melts due to global warming, shipping lanes may open up as well. This alone would change the current trade routes tremendously as well as present unspeakable dangers to the wildlife in the area. Polar Bears are already suffering due to the melting ice making them extremely vulnerable. Almost the entire Narwhal population can be found in the Arctic region as well.

Russia has had a military presence in the area for some years now and has had a vested interest in tapping into its resources. Russian explorer Artur N. Chilingarov, while on expedition, planted a titanium Russian flag on the ocean floorDJ at North Pole underneath the North Pole while collecting soil samples, thereby claiming the area as Russia’s own.

“Russia will probably have an edge over other countries because they have seven nuclear powered icebreakers,” Glendale Community College Associate Professor of Geography Michael Reed said. “Even large corporations like Shell have pulled out of expeditions in the Arctic because it’s just too expensive to try to drill there.”

Caption: Dieuwertje Kast, a GCC alumna, is spending her summer at the North Pole Toolik field station as part of her training with PolarTREC, an organization that sponsors educators to partner with researchers. Kast’s area of study is microbial changes in arctic freshwater.

Denmark is also claiming its piece of the pie, as are the United States, Norway and Canada. With such huge economic potential it’s going to be an interesting debate as to who will walk away with the biggest prize, and if conflict can be avoided.

It is up to the United Nations arbitration department to decide who has a legitimate claim to the area and what the borders will be. The original request to the U.N. was made by the five nations claiming rights to the area in 2008, exploration continues and hope to have a decision by 2027.

It’s extremely important to be aware of the reckless behavior humans are capable of and educate yourself as to the alternatives available. With elections coming up this year take the time to find out where the candidates stand on important issues. Make informed choices to protect the Earth and the environment. It won’t take much to completely change circumstances at the North Pole for the worse.

There is only Earth, which all life depends on for survival. Humans are only one species of millions with no right to destroy the habitat of the others that share the planet. Be part of the solution, choose world leaders wisely, do your part to reduce your dependency on fossil fuels, respect all life and the land it needs to survive.

About Nancy Villalobos
Nancy Villalobos is a returning student to GCC working toward a degree in Mass Communications to pursue a career in Public Relations.

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