Antarctica and the importance of the environment - a rude awakening
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
When thinking about Antarctica I imagine the image is of a vast, white continent at the bottom of the world. It has breathtaking scenery that makes your mind wander, but it is also a continent that—after being there—leads a person to reflect on themselves, on life and death, past and present, and the future. Its stories are all over the landscape and follow a person around like a shadow in the 24-hour daylight. It is a long time ago that the first men sat foot on this continent. But the marks are still there, not only in the stories, but also in the landscape; the first hut erected is still standing, and buried in the ice are many remains of human impact. It is interesting to ponder on how humans have behaved on the continent and to examine whether and how their behaviour has changed over time. What has brought about these changes and what does this mean for the future protection of Antarctica? This paper will chart the evolution of changing behaviour towards the Antarctic environment from the early position of its use value to today’s more environmental protection focus. Today we have a framework of laws and regulations for the Antarctic continent and its surrounding oceans, but it is only 20 years since the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was adopted, and big changes have been made during the recent years. Our understanding of this land and continent is completely different today than 100 years ago. From being a white unknown, uncharted area, terra nullius/incognito, on the map at the turn of the last century humans have explored, charted, claimed the continent and exploited it’s marine resources. Our knowledge has increased, and is continuing to do so, not only about Antarctic matters, but also about the Earth in general. Focus on the environment and our behaviour has become a world issue. The environment is a fundamental element in human pleasure and satisfaction even though human behaviour has environmental impacts that are sometimes negative and destructive. Legal requirements, emanating from the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and added regulations and measures to control human activity and change conduct in the Antarctic, are elements that have shaped behaviour. But general public opinion and peer pressure have also been significant parts of the process.