Northern Exposure: Pew in the Arctic
As melting ice opens up the once-impenetrable Arctic, Pew wants science to guide the size of man's expanding footprint in the remote region.
We all marked a major milestone this past fall when the world's population surpassed 7 billion. As our population has grown, so too has our feeling that the world is getting smaller. With this greater connectivity comes the realization that our actions can significantly impact one another and the planet we share. This poses serious challenges, but also offers opportunities—if we are willing to band together—to solve today's most challenging problems.
Nowhere is the need for a collaborative solution more evident than in the Arctic. Climate change is warming this pristine area at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. The Arctic's ice cap is melting, which is fundamentally changing its ecosystems and opening up previously impenetrable waters to energy drilling, commercial fishing, and shipping. We do not yet fully understand the impact that rising temperatures and increased industrialization will have on the fish, polar bears, whales, seabirds, and other animals that inhabit the Arctic, nor on the indigenous communities that have thrived for thousands of years with a traditional way of life dependent on the region's natural bounty. Therefore, before permitting new development in Arctic waters, researchers should have the chance to study this relatively untouched area, so that science can form the basis for a comprehensive plan to preserve this special place for future generations. The Pew Environment Group is working with Arctic countries, local peoples, scientists, and conservationists to do just that.