As the Arctic melts and our post Obama election euphoria begins to abate, attention has turned to the greedy rush to pillage Arctic waters for fossil fuel resources and fish stocks. Have we learned nothing about the consequences of our already unfettered consumption and contamination of the earth's natural resources? Aren't we supposed to be getting off fossil fuels and allowing already depleted fish stocks at least an iota of a chance at recovery before it's too late (if it isn't already)? Has the industrial world no conscience? Are these naive questions?
So now that all the euphoria has died down it’s back to reading headlines like this:
"Governments are queuing up for slice of the region’s fossil fuels and fish stocks."
That was in the November 21 edition of the Financial Times.The "region" in question is the Arctic.
Reading this it’s like nothing at all has been happening on climate change. No fundamental message has sunk in. Fossil fuels and fish stocks? Aren’t we supposed to be cutting out the first? And haven’t we already decimated the second? Is the tragedy of the Arctic melt to turn into a further plundering of resources we can’t afford to touch if there is any hope for planetary survival?
This kind of news isn’t just maddening. It’s downright insanity – the greedy, ignorant, short-sighted and suicidal kind of insanity.
It just boggles the mind. Are we really so stupid as a species that we see the pillaging of the Arctic as something beneficial to humankind? (There’s certainly no shred of possibility that it’s of any benefit to animalkind. Hermaphrodism in polar bears is one of the sorry outcomes of our unfettered polluting of this precious ecosystem.)
Isn’t it bad enough that the Arctic is already highly contaminated with PCBs, POPs (persistent organic pollutants) and radioactivity - mainly from leaking Russian nuclear submarines as well as radioactive waste dumped by the former Soviet regime in the polar region, but also from the detritus of French and British reprocessing whose waste discharges have been tracked all the way to the Arctic Circle? Dead Belugas as now so radioactively contaminated that their corpses must be classified as radioactive waste. Minke whales found in northern hemispheric waters have been found to be contaminated with radioactive cesium. Something is really wrong with this picture – and it’s a "masterpiece" in tragedy wrought by our own deadly human hand.
Isn’t it irresponsible enough that we are going to melt away the habitat of essential top predators wrecking the very food chain that those lower-down fish also depend on? And thereby also devastating the seabird populationthat depends on the fish? And so on. Now we must ravage its resources too and open up fishing lanes – thus adding to carbon emissions,bilge water pollutions, oil discharges(ironic,eh?) and other ecological problems?
How can we on the one hand recognize the imperative to get off fossil fuels once and for all and on the other hand salivate at the prospect of unleashing 30% of the world’s recoverable natural gas resources and 13 per cent of the oil?
Must the answer to the familiar Pete Seeger refrain "when will they ever learn?" be "never?"
Perhaps it’s the same mentality that allowed the Supreme Court to reversethe opinions of lower courts on the harm done to marine mammals by Navy sonar and to allow nightmares like Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to state, arrogantly and anthropocentrically, that whatever harm comes to marine mammals as a result will be
"outweighed by the public interest and the Navy’s interest in effective, realistic training of its sailors."
Public interest? Let’s hope the Chief Injustice hears from the public as well as environmental groups about this. Perhaps someone should stand outside his house blasting a high-pitched, deafening and continuous sound through his windows – fundamentally what he has authorized can happen to whales and other creatures – and see in whose interest he votes then?
The incoming Obama administration has a lot on its plate. Protecting the great, important and largely unseen world of the oceans – Arctic or anywhere - will be a must.