Antarctica, attractive box of Pandora

Last year I have spent almost three weeks on Greenland. Talking to local officials and even more local Inuit fishermen and hunters it became clear that Greenland faces a huge dilemma: to become definitively independent from Mother Denmark it needs to be able to take care of itself. We are talking serious money. That money is to be found under the Arctic ice and sea. I mean oil and gas. But if Greenland allows the oil drillers into the territory, its splendid nature wil suffer beyond repair. So this is their Sophie’s choice: stay poor or become rich but dirty.

Two small sentences from the Russian delegation during the 34th meeting of the Treaty on the Antarctic, last June in Buenos Aires, have attracted my attention. They said that it would be a good idea to anihilate the Madrid protocol signed inm 1991 that decided that the white continent must stay ‘ a natural reserve dedicated to peace and science.’ In other words, a region closed to the business of natural resources. What is most disturbing is not the way Russia sees the future, but the silence coming from the 48 nations that signed the Treaty on the Antarctic. Not a word from them, including the seven countries that consider themselves to be the ‘owners’ of the continent: Norway, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Chile, Argentina and France. No one seems to care about the huge amount of CO2 that will be the result of burning more and more fossil energy resources. Is it due to the international economic crisis? The temptation of income from under the ice is indeed huge. But as financial experts keep telling us that debt will have to be paid by us one day, so does nature tell us that we will be punished if we continue to disrepect the right balance. The Antarctic is a box of Pandora indeed. What Greenland needs is wise coaching, not greedy oil companies.  Long term vision versus short term opportunism. But the question is from where? Stock exchanges have more influence than green idealists. Maybe we should remind bankers and oil companies that they have grandchildren too.

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