Parvati Magazine MAPS Arctic Shipping

Why Life Depends on a Ship-Free Arctic Ocean

14,000 tons per second. That’s how fast we’re losing our life support system.

For millions of years, the Arctic Ocean’s ice has given every being on Earth food, shelter and safety by stabilizing the global weather patterns that make it all possible. But in the past 50 years, 75% of it has melted away. The worldwide consequences are devastating, claiming hundreds of thousands of human lives every year in natural disasters, famines, disease and more as our world heats up. Losing this ice is not an Arctic problem. It is a global humanitarian crisis.

The voice of Nature, and that of compassion deep within every heart, are crying out for us to change our ways now and prevent unimaginable suffering in the years to come. Yet, we seem to live in a world where the roar of ship engines drowns out this call.

Russia is shipping more millions of tons of goods every year along the “Northern Sea Route” in the Arctic Ocean, and has pledged to increase this rate to 80 million tons a year by 2025. Worse, these goods are almost all fossil fuel products extracted from Arctic offshore operations. China, whose northernmost reaches are separated from the Arctic Ocean by over 2000km of Russian landmass, has declared itself a “near-Arctic” power and is setting up operations in Greenland for a “polar silk road”.

The simple truth is that these choices are not compatible with life.

Commercial shipping that takes advantage of the Arctic Ocean in its current state of emergency breaks up the fragile ice that remains to us. In addition, large ships use heavy fuel oil, whose emissions are high in particulate matter that darkens the ice and weakens its ability to reflect the sun’s heat away from the planet. If spilled, heavy fuel oil is impossible to clean up because it sticks to anything it touches.

From the perspective of whales, who are the great benefactors of Earth through their carbon-capturing “whale pump effect”, the world’s oceans are already a cacophonous din, with noise from ship traffic doubling every decade. The Arctic, by virtue of its ice, has been a place of relative quiet. We must not lose this last place of tranquility. Ship strikes are a leading cause of whale death in a time when their populations are already threatened. To keep the great whales—and ourselves—from becoming footnotes in history, we must rethink the frenzied need to connect goods for profit regardless of consequence, and reconnect instead with the reality that we are all in this together.

Trying to connect shipping routes through the critically sensitive Arctic Ocean is disconnected thinking. A planet that sustains life is the only bottom line that counts. Whatever seeming profit comes from Arctic shipping will ultimately dissolve just like the vanishing ice, leaving our world impoverished.

We have the choice today to listen: to scientists warning about the urgent and catastrophic state of the Arctic Ocean, to the cry of a million children starving in this moment, to our own heart knowing that there is a better way. We can make a massive difference if we act now. But the ice is not waiting for us to realize we need it to survive. Every ship that smashes through its dwindling cover leaves us worse off. Please support the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary today and end shipping traffic in the Arctic Ocean for good. is a not-for-profit dedicated to a healthy world. Its first order
of business is the realization of MAPS: the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary,
an effective step to cool our planet and keep our oceans alive.