The Artic is a region at the upper most tip of the Northern Hemisphere. The Artic includes the area around Greenland, USSR, Canada and Alaska. Much of the Artic circle is permanently frozen ice. The Artic is a pristine environment, clean and void of human interference. However as humans move into these areas and begin to extract what ever they can be balance can be tipped, resulting in pollution and destruction of the environment.
The Artic winters much longer than the Summer. In the winter the sun never rises and in the summer it never sets. The average temperature for the Artic is zero degrees of less.
Industry and the Artic.
There was once a time when the land of the Artic Circle was considered useless and only hospitable to those native to it. However once vast quantities of oil and fish had been found there was a rush of interest in the land. Fishing in the Artic has occurred for thousands of years but in recent years man has been fishing the Artic; in greater numbers and taking more fish.
Professional fishermen are taking all kinds of fish as well as whales and seals. In some areas fishermen have become so efficient at their job that quotas have needed to be put on to limit or stop the capture of certain animals. There are many mineral deposits within the Artic Circle. In Russia: nickel, iron ore, apatite, diamonds, gold, tin, coal, mica, and tungsten. In Sweden: iron ore. In Greenland: lead, zinc, molybdenum and cryolite. Spitsbergen: coal. Canada: uranium, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, tungsten and iron ore. The digging out of minerals would inevitably disturb the natural habitat as well as the environment there would be a great cost to maintain the site. Industry that is designed to process various minerals have waste products that would be most unwelcome in the Artic. A good example of this is the pollution that has arisen as a result of the smelting of metals in the Artic. It is for this reason that there is very little industry in the Artic. However Russia, Canada, Greenland and Iceland have several small scale manufacturing plants.
The largest industry in the Artic is oil. The rush began in 1968 when a large oil field was discovered, there was a great deal of protest but the development went ahead. Oil extracted from the felid makes its way to Port Valdez via a 1300 kilometre pipeline. Although steps were taken to limit the pipelines affect on the environment it still disrupts the migration of caribou. In 1989 the unthinkable happened and the super tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound. The effects of the slick were devastating. Within a week workers counted 24000 dead sea birds and 1000 sea otters. The effects of the slick were felt throughout the food chain from photoplankton to bears. The Exxon company funded the clean up but there was no compensation for the hundreds of people that lost their job as a result of the slick.
Pollution of the Artic
A large threat to the Artic is transboundry pollution and bioaccumulation. These are both complex subjects but are easily explained.Transboundry pollution is the pollution of the Artic from other countries. The ocean currents and wind conditions result in large amounts of pollution being deposited in the Artic. In winter when the sun is low thick blankets of haze can be seen over the Artic. Bioaccumulation is the process where pollutants build up in the Artic because they cannot be broken down due to the extreme cold. Once harsh chemicals find their way into the food chain they stay there forever, trapped in the animals and sediments. A result of increased pollutants in the atmosphere is the occurrence of acid rain.
Sulphur and Nitrogen dioxides drift from developed countries and when they mix with water in the atmosphere they can produce acid rain as strong as lemon juice. The acid snow melts in summer and spring producing an acid shock that can kill animals and plants alike. In 1986 the nuclear reactor in Chernoybl exploded sending a nuclear cloud into the atmosphere that among other places contaminated plants and animals in the Artic region. Particularly affected were lichens, lichens are a plant that makes up the majority of a reindeers’ diet. When the reindeers ate the lichens they became radioactive and many thousands had to be shot.
Tourism vs conservation.
In the battle between tourism and conservation, tourism seems to always win. However in the Artic tourism has so far had little effect (compared to other human activity) on the environment. The scenery and wild life of the Artic are seen as so special that people pay thousands of dollars for a small glimpse of the Artic.
It is believed by many that Artic tourism will spread a general concern for the environment. There is no denying that if tourism is not controlled people will destroy what they have come to see. Tourism will alway clash with conservation and it is many peoples opinion that tourism should be stoped in the Artic altogether, but if there is money to be made someone will be there to provide the service.
Human’s have had a great deal of impact on the Artic environment. Mining, tourism bioaccumulation and transboundry pollution mean that this land is a great threat. Tourism is the latest threat with huge potential for damage. The Artic is one of the few unspoilt wilderness areas in the world and must be conserved.