New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 7: From hydrocarbons to psychrophiles: the 'scramble' for Antarctic and Arctic resources
The Arctic and Antarctica, despite their remoteness, in the past century have become increasingly accessible and of interest because of their living and non-living resources. Over a century ago the main resource of interest was whales. More recently the fishery resources of both regions, and especially the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, have been exploited. As climate change drives environmental change in both regions, making them increasingly accessible to shipping, so has come a fresh focus on polar resources: minerals, oil and gas and the biotechnology potential of biodiversity in both regions. If one were to believe all that is written in the media, then this century is witnessing the dawn of a new rush for the mineral resources of both the Arctic and Antarctica, unknown in the history of the polar regions. A headline in Le Monde, for example, exclaimed, 'Led by Russia, a quiet rush may be on for Antarctica's resources'. In a similar vein the Sydney Morning Herald published an article headed 'Chinese Resources Chief Eyes Antarctica Minerals'. In the United Kingdom The Guardian suggested a strategic battle for control of Antarctica akin to a chess match led by Russia and China was now underway in its article headed 'Pawns in Play on Antarctic Ice-Cap'. The recent media frenzy surrounding interest in Antarctica's resources follows a similar response that engulfed the media in 2007 when a Russian flag was planted on the seabed below the North Pole.
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