Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Editor's Pick

Global Warming Melts a Frontier
By Chris Tomazic, AmeriCorps*VISTA for Media Development

I find it unfortunate that we need to devote so much time and effort protecting nature from our own actions, especially when those actions come from commercial interests. In the case of the arctic, nature has protected itself to a large extent – that is, until recently. What once was a harsh (even bitter) landscape to foreigners is literally melting away. In the process, the arctic is inadvertently opening to commercial development.

As the polar ice caps recede, travel through the frozen polar expanse becomes more of an option. A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Amundsen, currently plows through the Northwest Passage studying the effects of global warming on that area. With shrinking ice caps, commercial institutions may think of using the Northwest Passage as a shipping route, which could bode ill for one of the last true frontiers on this planet.

Estimates vary widely on when the passage will be open to shipping all summer because of the ceaseless warming. The Canadian Ice Service conservatively predicts the southerly drift of even a shrunken ice pack will keep the passage clogged for most of this century. Other experts predict it will be open as soon as 2020; Canada's defense agency says 2015. Those who visit regularly say the evidence is before their eyes.

The above quote was taken from an article on the Washington Post’s website. You can read the full article and watch a video about the Amundsen’s voyage here.