One of the places in the world where you will find few people willing to contest the assertion that our climate is changing is the Arctic region. Every summer, more and more ice melts away from the northern reaches of Canada’s territory. This year, an “unprecedented” amount of protective ozone was lost over the Arctic. Scientists have warned that the North Pole will be in the open sea by 2040 – if not much sooner. A territory relatively untouched and inaccessible by man will become accessible by boat, enabling visits from tourists, military assertions of dominion and bids to exploit the natural reserves of oil beneath the Arctic Ocean. As such, the area – already contested by five countries – is set to become ever more the subject of greed, competition and “me first” thinking.
It is important to understand that polar ice plays a significant role in regulating the planet’s temperature. The ice reflects the sun’s rays, deflecting heat that would otherwise be absorbed. Open water absorbs more heat from the sun, contributing to accelerated warming of the ocean’s water. (Incidentally, warm sea surface temperatures fuel tropical cyclones: the warmer the water, the more potential for a devastating typhoon or hurricane.) So as the ozone thins and more heat reaches the surface of the planet, ice vanishes in the Arctic and the potential for climate change increases sharply – and sea levels rise all over the world.
Sadly, however, the primary concern of many governments, businesses and organizations in the face of the vanishing ice in the Arctic is not to sound the alarm on climate change, not to reiterate that we must change our ways if we wish to preserve the natural balance of the planet. Instead, the attention is on what can be owned or acquired in order to profit from a change seen as largely inevitable. Naval military will be deployed to assert ownership of highly coveted territory. Companies eager to satisfy our society’s thirst for fossil fuel have already sought to drill in the Arctic seabed. The possibility of gold or other precious metals or stones lying beneath the earth draws the attention of mining companies – already active and leaving problematic environmental footprints in Canada’s north.
What if the fuels and minerals beneath the Arctic seabed are of most service to the Earth right where they are, not harvested for profit? Do we even understand a tiny fraction of how Nature holds ecosystems in balance? Do we stop to consider a bigger picture and a more profound bottom line? Can we step outside a distorted framework of imagined scarcity, greed, wanting and insecurity that only takes and takes?
If you do not approve of exploitation of the natural resources in the Arctic, you can make your views known to your federal representative in Canada or the US. You can also choose to use less fossil fuel by car-pooling, cycling, taking public transit or investing in a hybrid or electric car; and you can choose not to buy in to the messages of greed and “might makes right”. Many lives – both human and nonhuman – are greatly affected by the changes taking place in the Arctic, and will be even more so if the region becomes exploited. When one of us is affected, all of us will be affected. By that same token, each of us making a choice that supports the Earth benefits all of us. How will you choose to act for the Earth today?
Pranada Devi is a government communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She manages the Politics, Books and Activism sections for Parvati Magazine in addition to serving as Managing Editor for the magazine overall. She has followed politics at all levels for two decades. She serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.