The following document was produced by all student participants during the final days of the Students on Ice Antarctic Youth
Expedition 2000. It reflects the students’ understanding of Antarctic issues, and their passion for the sustainable future of Antarctica. It represents a significant outcome of their journey and experiences. This statement was presented by students to decision makers at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) XXIV and the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) IV of the ATCM in St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2001.
Antarctica is the most pristine continent, largely unaltered by human activity. The contrast of this region’s environment to the rest of the world should encourage us to learn from our past mistakes. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, it is a powerful, sensitive ecosystem playing a critical role in maintaining the stability of our planet’s climate. Antarctica holds 70% of the Earth’s fresh-water supply, and is the summer home to one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. Ice, hundreds of thousands of years old, has provided an important archive of many aspects of the planet’s history. Research that has helped humanity understand climate change and ozone depletion illustrates the crucial importance of supporting science in this region. Cooperation and good will amongst countries working here is an example for how the world should collaborate in other international affairs. This approach must be strengthened.
Young Canadians with an Important Perspective
As the first youth expedition to Antarctica, we feel fortunate to have visited and experienced this special part of the planet. We are passionate, young ambassadors who came without a specific scientific or political objective. Visiting Antarctica has impacted us emotionally, artistically and intellectually. As future leaders with a new global perspective, we now feel a responsibility to express our insights, feelings and concerns about this continent. We hope our interest, motivation and open minds may provide others with new perspectives.
General Steps to Protect Antarctica
All countries must work together to uphold and strengthen the Antarctic Treaty System. Countries must accept full responsibility for any adverse environmental impact and a strong means of enforcing existing treaties must be established, such as establishing an international body with real judicial power. Specific attention must be paid to ensure that scientific work, tourism, fishing, whaling and other human activities do not compromise the integrity of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Strong efforts are needed to educate both the general public and the private sector about current threats to the environment, including climate change, over fishing, and ozone depletion. These efforts should also identify solutions.
Education and Student Related Initiatives
In order to strengthen the environmental integrity of both Polar Regions, higher public awareness is essential. These efforts are particularly important for youth so that they understand early in life the consequences of damaging these regions. These initiatives can be carried out in a number of ways:
- Make it a priority to put multi-disciplinary polar curriculum in elementary and secondary schools.
- Support experiential programs like educational tours and co-op programs that provide real hands-on opportunities to learn.
- Deliver educational programs through the Internet, TV, books and movies.
- Scientists and interested students should seek opportunities to give presentations in schools and the broader community.
- Support opportunities for students to participate in the activities of the CCAR, CPC and other Canadian polar committees.
- Youth should be actively involved in helping develop polar education initiatives, through direct participation in committees and other programs.
Canada’s role in Antarctica
Canadians have a long history of involvement in Antarctica through exploration, scientific research and commercial activity. Canada is an important polar nation and involvement in Antarctica can improve our understanding of our Arctic region. Canada should, therefore, strengthen its role in protecting and supporting activities in Antarctica. There are a number actions Canada could take:
- Investigate the establishment of a Canadian research base that encourages strong international cooperation and minimizes
- Become a full member of the Antarctic Treaty.
- Take stronger leadership in protecting the ozone layer and preventing climate change, such as supporting alternative
energy and other appropriate technologies, or using the tax system to encourage ethically and environmentally sound
- Set an example to all countries by implementing and enforcing all parts of the Antarctica Treaty System.
- Ratify the Antarctic Treaty System’s Environmental Protocol.