Polar bears are great, sure. But the Arctic is much more than that…
The Arctic has been the home of hundreds of different species of animals and more than 13 million people, slowing building a strong bond with their environment. This environment has been experiencing drastic changes in recent years, with a faster rate than ever before. The difficulty of adapting to these changes is putting at risk the survival of these animals, on the brink of extinction.
Moreover, the whole society of these indigenous population is doom to be washed away.
The ecological disruption in the Arctic, and in Polar regions in general, also endangers the entire Earth and our own life. It is already the cause of unpredictable and devastating meteorological events, droughts, floods and storms striking several inhabited areas in both the temperate and tropical regions, where our audience precisely lives.
Indeed, the Arctic region is a considerable component of our climatic system, covering a substantial 20% of the Earth’s surface and its ice and snow contribute substantially to restraining the Earth’s temperature regime. It contributes hugely to the balancing of our climate.
Arctic Rounder is a long-term project consisting of different expeditions around the Arctic Polar Circle aiming to increase widespread understanding of the environmental crisis in the Far North. We intend to captivate the audience through accurate and original storytelling blending factual reporting with a bit of adventure, including videos series, photo-galleries and interactive maps.
We are committed to document the Arctic pristine and fragile beauty, the signs of its deterioration due to global warming and other human activities, the research activities sudying the effects and mitigation-adaptation efforts.
We focus on three specific areas:
(1) climate science and ecosystems monitoring
(2) human impact and low-carbon technologies
(3) sustainable tourism and public awareness
Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level.
After having recognized the importance of this region, called “the world’s refrigerator” for balancing the global climate, we should take action to better understand the inner causes and measuring the effects.
The ice and snow in these regions reflect a high proportion of the sun’s energy into space. Losing snow and ice is causing bare rock and water to absorb more sun energy. It means that the decreased reflection process is retaining more heat, warming up the planet.
Therefore, preventing the ice melting is the first goal to counteract climate change. We also know that a small temperature shift of only 2 degrees could be too much.
Climate change is affecting the ocean currents, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, due to the thawing of the permafrost, and affecting the life of animals and plants. We need scientifically evidences to testify for all these changes, support our cause and promote serious action.
When avoiding change is not possible anymore, adapting is our only solution. We have to understand the importance of the Arctic region for better dealing with climate change.
That’s why financing both research and monitoring of the Polar Regions is highly needed. Science-based analysis is the best tool to convince policy-makers to take serious action to counteract and reduce the damages of climate change.
Climate change is the main threat to biodiversity in the Arctic, as shown by facts gather during the years. Ecosystems in the Arctic have been experiencing great unbalances recently. The richness of its biodiversity is being slowly degraded, where they used to enjoy large areas of habitat that supported a full range of ecological processes and interactions.
Migratory species are also subject to its disastrous effects, considering the threat posed by the over-harvesting and habitat alteration outside the Arctic, especially along the East Asian flyway.
The Arctic region has been preserved during these years to invasive alien species, with very few of them currently present.In the future more are nonetheless expected, due to climate change and increased human activity. Our knowledge of many arctic species, ecosystems and their stressors is fragmentary, making detection and assessment very difficult.
To deal with these problems we need to better monitoring the ecosystems’ health and take decisive action to sustain vast, relatively undisturbed ecosystems of tundra, mountains, fresh water and seas. Gathering data about these ecosystems is also the most effective way to efficiently gauge the impeding damages.
If we consider the economical and industrial relevance that the Arctic region has acquired during the recent years, as well as the growing future intensity of these activities, we can easily see that the only way forward is testing and developing new low-carbon technologies.
Oil and gas extractions is currently being carried out by big companies, mainly with outdated technologies. The risk of an oil spill is enormous, considering the irreparable damage that it could bring. If we can’t avoid the oil extraction, we should nonetheless ensure the safety and a lower impact on the environment.
Ship emissions, especially, contain many gasses and pollutants. These gases as well as black carbon (soot) have negative effects on health too. Black carbon emitted from ships is the real danger in these areas, depositing onto the white snow and the ice surfaces and increasing the uptake of solar radiation and hence the melting.
Moreover, the current technologies that we possess carry with them several shortcomings, enhancing the pressure on the land use: decreased biodiversity, habitat fragmentation and disruptions of migration paths.
We need therefore greener technologies to reduce the impact of global warming and human activities in the Arctic.
There are different kind of tourism. There is a difference between exploiting the touristic resources and enhancing the value of a place, thereby making it more accessible to people and give them a real chance to discover it.
A massive uncontrolled kind of tourism would be detrimental to the quality, richness and appeal of the Arctic region, its biodiversity and its environmental health.
What we need is to promote sustainable tourism that will be able to make tourism and conservation compatible, support the preservation of wilderness and biodiversity, use natural resources in a sustainable way and, last but not the least, respect local cultures and their rights. It also means that the Arctic communities should benefit from tourism, minimizing every possible damage to their local life.
The only way to have such a respectful tourism is through encouraging tourism planning, cooperating with environmental organisation and supporting the monitoring and research on the effects of tourism. If these will become our priorities, then these goals will be no longer out of reach.
Ecotourism is also about raising awareness among travelers about the ecological concerns, the climate change impact on their experiences and projects demonstrating the need for the preservation of ecosystems and people’s livelihoods.