Arctic: the Ecological Mercenaries

Only 15 years ago it seemed that Arctic region was not of any interest except for scientific and investigative. Those are literally giant territories of 21 million square kilometers (which is more than 5% of entire Earth’s surface), however the only news we heard were about Arctic voyages of exploration in those days. Many considered that it would always be so.

Yet in recent years, the situation has drastically changed. Such things as the global climate change and mass deglaciation we’ve been frighten with have opened up massive opportunities for research and exploitation of interior part of the region. At once practically all Arctic countries used them for their own benefit. It occurred that Arctic has vast hydrocarbon deposits. According to the Ernst & Young’s estimation, they make up no less than 20% of all non-discovered reserves of the globe (which are actually much bigger). Also the region happened to be very rich in fish. There are more than 400 fish species including most rare ones. In addition it is a recognized fact that the progressive thinning of the Arctic icecap offer more possibilities for development of new sea routes.

The level of passion of Arctic states with those discoveries could be estimated by the quickness of ceasing that entire bustle around the global warming disaster and the necessity of its control. Just remember, how much attention this problem got just a decade ago and all those amounts of chilling information about deluging of entire countries and regions. A striking example is infamous Albert Gore who was awarded with Nobel Prize 2007 “for efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” as one of authors of An Inconvenient Truth documentary film, which disclosed numerous facts of nature overexploitation. Now, when was the last time that you heard about it or about anything of that kind? Quite a long time ago, isn’t it? The cause of it hardly is a threat disappearance. Officials and business people have assessed risks and benefits and shut those mouths, which had a loose tongue.

These aren’t mere idle talks. This is the reality I’ve become to know of straight from the source. After meeting the ecologists from some European countries I understood that for the most part their activity in a modern world is a fulfillment of orders of particular customers and companies. They make no secret about it. What about Arctic theme, they’ve got no latitude at all.

I know Danjal Niclasen, the captain on a fishing vessel Saputi. His ship was damaged in the Davis Strait after striking ice in the night of February 21.

The incident was over at once. All crew on board are safe now. However that is no more than a mere bit of luck or the finger of God if you wish. This story could end much more tragically, if ice would strike engine space, for instance. The crew would hardly get out of a ship sinking like a rock.

The most curious is that fact that this is not the first time when seamen face such troubles exactly near the Greenland coast. Getting interested, I set out to examine the problem and buried myself in the vast sea of information about ecology, field ice and all of that kind. To my own surprise, it turned out that the Danes had been actively geologizing in the island shelf, not bothering about consequences including split off glaciers. The reason is clear. That ice float away in the direction of another country. This is why it’s easier to lay the blame on warm current washing Jakobshavn Glacier or mere ice melting. This little inquiry led me to Danish ecologists (thanks to social networks, Telegram and other resources). They confirmed this fact, but added that they aren’t going to write about it or make any statements. The cause is rather obvious. This data would adversely affect Danish energy sector. This means that they won’t win enough funding from the specialized companies they’ve been co-operating with for years.

It’s quite clear that there are no completely independent companies or organizations in any field of activity. But though I consider myself as rather rational person not living under a rock, I am shocked with cynicism of some Treehuggers. There are lobbying groups of at least two countries (Norway and Denmark, I didn’t dig even deeper) standing behind each fine piece revealing the impairment of the Arctic ecosystem and demonstrating progress in environmental protection. They’ve been at pains to divert the world’s attention from one problem turning it to another. After exchanging contacts and having communicated with some of those environmental fighters I fully realized that they even don’t intend to cover up bias of their activity. This very activity instigated me to write this feature story.

Whether those guys happened to be too chatty and cat-witted, if you’ll pardon the expression, or they consider such things common practice… I’d like to save your time and give a brief overview instead of putting on the web all our chat correspondence. Nowadays environmental watchdogs have become the part of advancing of national interests in Arctic region strategy. That is why they get such sponsorship and fussing over like an old hen at the state level. In this region Norway generally is engaged in fishing (it is much more profitable than their Statoil drilling). That is why they so easily allow raising an issue of environmental damage from Arctic hydrocarbon production, but veto the discussion and disapproval of bottom fishing practices. As if there is no such a problem at all. However it is extremely harmful for the environment.

In its turn Denmark submitted an ambitious application to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf claiming the right to own the Lomonosov Ridge. Hence Danish rush for the shelf exploration by all means to find advantageous evidence is. Nonetheless no one bothers to keep ecological compatibility as well as to secure the ecosystem. That is why there is so few data about Danish bottom exploration, and it is exceedingly positive. This can easily be checked. This is how simple it is to localize unnecessary information, if its source is in a distant corner of the globe with difficult access. It works the best especially when it concerned the country holding eco-friendly top positions.

Besides they also hush up that fact that very often the research and working in Arctic region and subarctic territories has been followed by the closer attention of military services keeping there their secrets. Remarkable fact is that since boundary isn’t neatly-defined, it is rather easy to come in sight of the neighbor or just another country’s forces.

Thus according to the same ecologists, recently there was an incident in the North Sea. This time Danish warships forced a Norwegian vessel to return to the harbor, which was fishing in its waters. Unfairness is obvious. But they couldn’t withstand the strength. It remains secret what maneuvers the Danish were conducting, while there was no playwar planned that time. This is a drop in the bucket of similar cases.

One thing is clear: at the present time almost all countries prefer to keep silence about such incidents, hindering the information about them to leak to mass media. It may be so because many of them were noticed in similar infringements. But the question is how long would it last and couldn’t it be the calm before the storm? For instance, some acquaintances of mine hinted that those times might return when Greenpeace activists chained themselves to platforms and stole in the ships. However, this time it would be done not for environmental sake, but for reasons of state.

Raymons Gagnon



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