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
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
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
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
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.