Monday, March 15, 2010

Protect Antarctica With Treaties‏

by John Chambers

Antarctica is a continent with immense mountain peaks and oceans filled with emperor penguins, blue whales, and leopard seals, and it is protected as a wilderness through an international pact. For the past decade or so, oil drilling and mining have been banned from Antarctica in order to safeguard its natural beauty; this protection will last 40 more years.

The pact stresses conservation in place of growth and development. Threats to the wildlife like dogs and pesticides are forbidden.

The continent is protected through the Environmental Protection Protocol to the Antarctica Treaty. Nations around the world agreed to leave Antarctica free from commercial and industrial development. Approval was gained in 1991 by the twenty-six leading countries having scientific interests in the area, including the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and most of the main European countries.

The treaty stopped the arguing that was going on for more than 15 years about regulating the area. In addition to the restriction of oil and mining, the treaty also requires nations that run any of Antarctica's 35 scientific outposts to remove all trash. Further, tourist vessels and scientific stations are prohibited from discharging raw sewage into the waters surrounding Antarctica.

The first person to get to the South Pole was Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911 and he used sled dogs to get around. The accord, however, prohibits any dogs on the continent, as penguins and other native fowl have been killed by pets belonging to researchers. Pesticides, non-sterile soil and polystyrene packaging are not allowed to be brought into Antarctica either.

The continent lies under a covering of ice that averages a mile deep. The area supports limited plant life such as moss and grasses. Seventy per cent of the planet's fresh water comprises Antarctica's ice. You can find a rich ecosystem containing plenty of marine like and animals around Antarctica.

Antarctica is a very fragile ecosystem. Life grows very slowly at the continual below-zero temperature conditions. Recovering from trauma can take years. A footprint could stay in the moss for a decade.

The original treaty, which was signed in 1959, also banned any military activity and nuclear testing near the Arctic area. It also asserted that Antarctica was to be owned by no nations.

The rules for research were also established at this time. No one nation can claim all of Antarctica but every inch is claimed by some country.

When scientists reported the discovery of oil, coal, gold, zinc, iron, uranium, manganese, and copper, among other minerals, environmental organizations started fighting to establish laws to protect Antarctica early in the 1980's. The idea of drilling in Antarctica got tossed around in the 1970s when the energy crisis took place. With technological advancement and increases in the price of oil, interest in these deposits will probably become more intense.

With laws enforced in 26 nations, each nation will be responsible for enforcing the rules individually. If the country's government refuses to intervene when its citizens violate the rules, the other nations would apply pressure to solve the issue. This agreement is viewed by many to be a victory for the environment.

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