Quantcast
Energy

Underwater Seismic Blasting Puts Arctic at Risk

The Arctic's Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 percent of the world's narwhals. The area's marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut's Inuit communities.

Aboriginal groups in the Nunavut community of Clyde River say that large-scale seismic testing will harm marine life in the area.Paul Watson

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada's National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition. A lower court affirmed the NEB decision in 2015, claiming Inuit were adequately consulted on the project—something Inuit dispute. To prevent destruction of their hunting grounds, the remote hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to hear the case later this year. A positive decision could halt seismic blasting and affirm the right of Indigenous peoples to decide their own future regarding resource development in their territories, which is central to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Canada is a signatory.

This case is in an isolated region. But the threat of massive development in yet another traditional territory is not an isolated case. Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of environmental change around the planet. Ever-expanding resource developments are degrading traditional territories that have sustained communities for millennia, from Arctic tundra to primeval rainforest to arid desert. They're criss-crossed with roads, transmission lines and pipelines and pockmarked by pumpjacks, flare stacks and other infrastructure for drilling, fracking and strip-mining fossil fuels. Most developments proceed without consent from local communities and with minimal benefit to them in terms of jobs, training and economic prosperity.

Numerous studies show that Indigenous communities usually bear the brunt of resource development, from declining water quality to destruction of traditional hunting and fishing grounds. The social consequences are devastating. Earlier this year I participated in the Canadian Indigenous Health Conference, which brought public health experts together with Indigenous elders, political leaders, youth, hunters and trappers. Many First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities' social problems—including alcoholism, physical abuse, depression and suicide—are linked to the vacuum left when communities can no longer hunt, fish, trap, gather berries and otherwise live off their lands as their ancestors did.

Despite living in one the world's wealthiest countries, Inuit face chronic food insecurity. Nearly 70 percent of households in communities like Clyde River struggle with getting enough nutrition to stay healthy, compared to 8 percent for the country as a whole.

Traditional activities like hunting and fishing are critical to Indigenous communities' food security, but they also support a holistic approach to the overall health and well-being of Indigenous peoples. A David Suzuki Foundation study on the importance of caribou hunting to First Nations in the boreal forest found "harvesting as a practice is not solely a process of obtaining meat for nutrition. With each hunt a deliberate set of relationships and protocols is awakened and reinforced. These include reciprocity, social cohesion, spirituality and the passing on of knowledge to future generations."

Scientists fear high-intensity sounds from seismic blasting in the Arctic could adversely affect marine wildlife, exacerbating the food-insecurity crisis. Inuit hunters have observed altered migration patterns of some species and reported horrific damage to the internal organs of seals and other animals exposed to underwater seismic blasts.

Clyde River's resistance to big oil is classic David versus Goliath. On one side, powerful corporations with money and access to politicians. On the other, one of the world's oldest cultures, which has survived for millennia in harmony with the environment. Former Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine said, "Inuit do not live on the land; we are part of it. We form an indivisible unity with the Arctic environment that we are fighting to preserve for our people and our culture to survive and thrive."

Let's stand with Inuit and stop seismic blasting in the Canadian Arctic.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

How Big Is Your Environmental Footprint?

If you want to make a positive change this Earth Day but don't know where to start, one of best things you can do is take an honest look at your environmental footprint. For instance, how much water are you wasting? How much plastic are you throwing out? How much planet-warming carbon are you producing?

Luckily, there are many online calculators that crunch through your consumption habits. While the final tally might be daunting, it's the first step in living more sustainably.

Keep reading... Show less
Shopping at farmers markets can help minimize your waste.

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Waste So Every Day Is Earth Day

Earth Day 2018 is focused on the all-important theme of reducing plastic litter and pollution. Of course, we shouldn't just reduce our plastic footprint, we should try to reduce waste in all shapes, sizes and forms. It's said that the average American generates a staggering 4 pounds of trash every day—but you don't have to be part of that statistic.

Here are six entirely manageable tips and tricks to help you cut waste.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Will Rose / Greenpeace

7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future

By Jen Fela

We're celebrating a huge moment in the global movement for a plastic-free future: More than one million people around the world have called on big corporations to do their part to end single-use plastics.

Now we're taking the next big step. We're setting an ambitious new goal: A Million Acts of Blue.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

5 Environmental Victories to Inspire You This Earth Day

Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The work to be done can seem overwhelming. A survey published this week found that only 6 percent of Americans think we will succeed in reducing global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A fin whale surfacing in Greenland. Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / CC BY 2.0

Iceland to Resume Killing Endangered Fin Whales

By Kitty Block

Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Lyft

Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive

Lyft will make all of its rides carbon neutral starting immediately by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions, the company announced Thursday.

The ridesharing service, which is part of the We Are Still coalition, provides more than 10 million rides worldwide each week. "We feel immense responsibility for the profound impact that Lyft will have on our planet," founders John Zimmer and Logan Green wrote in a Medium post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!