Yesterday, at a joint session of the Arctic Council and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for tighter controls over tourism and other forms of pollution in Antarctica. Citing environmental and scientific research value, she urged greater global cooperation in preserving the continent.
Since 2000-01, visits to Antarctica have increased nearly four-fold,
with 46,000 visitors to the continent during the last tourist season.
The implications of this increase in tourism are, of course,
devastating to such a pristine ecosystem. And with the continued rise
in adventure tourism and nature-oriented travel, scientists and
preservationists are understandably concerned over the future of the
Some of the proposals that were brought up in the meeting:
1. Limit the number of landings from tourist vessels
2. Prevent hazardous discharges from said ships
3. Ensure the safety of Antarctic tourists with rigorous boat safety standards
4. Extend the existing marine pollution rules
Clinton hopes that these measures ensure that, in the face of global
climate change, the continent remains an intact and functioning
ecosystem that is freely accessible to scientists and researchers.
However, with energy resources and open space becoming increasingly
sought-after commodities in the 21st century, keeping Antarctica in
international hands will present unique challenges to the global
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the
Antarctic Treaty for signatures. The treaty, which designated the
continent as a free scientific preserve, also bans military exercises
or testing south of the 60° S latitude. Today, 46 countries have agreed
to abide by the treaty.
Some of the problems that Antarctica faces are just now coming to
international attention, but other places around the world have long
been ‘under attack‘ from excessive tourism. For example, the “world’s
highest garbage dump“, A.K.A. Mt. Everest, has more than 120 tons of
rubbish and nearly 120 dead bodies lying around above base camp. This
is primarily due to the massive increase in popularity and
accessibility to the peak. For roughly $40,000 USD, you can hire a
company to drag you and all of your stuff up the mountain– never mind
that most of your gear, and possibly your body, might not make it back
Let’s hope that this renewed promise to preserve Antarctica can keep
the continent pristine, beautiful and useful well beyond our lifetimes.
Cameron for My Wonderful World