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

One Million Trees Pledged to 'Trump Forest' to Offset President's Anti-Climate Agenda

Trump Forest—a global reforestation project aiming to offset President Trump's anti-climate policies—has reached 1 million trees after thousands of pledges from around the world.

Trump Forest was launched just under a year ago after POTUS announced he was pulling the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

Keep reading... Show less
The San Francisco Projection Department on Market Street with the #ExxonKnew campaign. Peg Hunter / Flickr

Time’s Up for California AG Becerra to Investigate #ExxonKnew and Prove He’s a Real Climate Leader

By May Boeve

With Trump and fossil fuel executives in the White House, any shot of powerful and lasting protections for our climate and communities will come from our cities and states. That's why it's so troubling that in California, one of the most progressive places in the U.S., current state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is failing to stand up to ExxonMobil and its ilk.

Keep reading... Show less
United Nations Development Programme

Climate Change, Conflict Leave 224 Million Undernourished in Africa

An official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that climate change and conflict are leading to food insecurity for millions of people living in Africa.

"Undernourishment appears to have risen from about 21 percent to nearly 23 percent between 2015 and 2016," Bukar Tijani, FAO's assistant director general for Africa, said Monday at a conference in Sudan.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
iStock

A Stargazer’s Guide to Protected Dark Skies

By Sabine Bergmann

For millennia, human beings have gazed into the firmament and been awed by the thousands of stars, galaxies, nebulae and other cosmic wonders visible to the naked eye. But in recent generations, much of humanity has become divorced from these marvels. Today, at least 80 percent of people living in the United States and Europe are so inundated with light pollution that they can't even see our own Milky Way, let alone our neighboring galaxies like Andromeda.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Shutterstock

Contaminated Cosmetics Pose Growing Risk to Consumers

By Scott Faber

A rash of product recalls, government warning notices and contaminated cosmetics may finally push Congress to give our broken cosmetics law a makeover.

This month, a key Senate committee announced a bipartisan plan to consider cosmetics reform legislation this spring and work for its passage by the full Senate this year.

Keep reading... Show less

America’s Cities Are the Vanguard for a Sustainable Future

By Henry Henderson

In the absence of federal leadership on climate change, America's cities have become the vanguard of the country's efforts to create a sustainable future. Recently, 233 mayors from 46 states and territories, representing 51 million residents across the country, have signed an open letter opposing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the nation's most comprehensive strategy to combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

Giant Sloth Fossils, Mayan Relics Discovered in World's Largest Flooded Cave

Archaeologists exploring the world's largest flooded cave—discovered last month just outside of Tulum, Mexico—have found an impressive treasure trove of relics.

The vast, 216-mile cave actually connects two of the largest flooded cave systems in the world, the 164-mile-long Sistema Sac Actun and the 52-mile-long Dos Ojos system. Aside from an extensive reserve of freshwater and rich biodiversity, the cave also contains an 11-mile-long, 66-food-deep cavern dubbed "the mother of all cenotes." Cenotes are natural pits, or underwater sinkholes, that are often holy sites in ancient Mayan culture.

Keep reading... Show less
A comet may have brought the mammoths to extinction. Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta / Dave Smith / Flickr

The Day a Comet Set the Earth on Fire: Scientists Find Evidence in Ancient Ice Cores

By Tim Radford

Think of it as the day a comet set the earth on fire. Researchers have evidence of widespread and devastating forest fires around half the world—a blaze to blot out the light of the sun—and all of it at a geological boundary called the Younger Dryas, 13,500 years ago.

The evidence, they say, supports the hypothesis that planet Earth sailed through a cloud of shattered cometary dust and stones, and the atmospheric violence that followed was enough to set light to accumulated forest timber, peat and grasses across the Americas, Europe and western Asia.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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