Antarctic Tourism

The dramatic collapse of part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and yesterday’s joint meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council have renewed the debate over polar (but mostly Antarctic) tourism.

I’m of two minds about Antarctic tourism. On the one hand, Antarctic tourism brings people face-to-face with the beauty, harshness and stunning otherness of that continent. It most likely creates supporters of or sympathizers with rules and regulations that protect the continent. On the other hand, it’s a dangerous, unregulated industry that’s growing and putting further stress on a fragile ecosystem. The fact that most tourists visit the Antarctic peninsula, where the Wilkins Ice Shelf is now so threatened, makes tourism seem even more risky.

Overall, I think I favor heavily regulating or even banning Antarctic tourism — but which of those two options I prefer depends on the day. However, the current unregulated state of affairs is dangerous for the tourists and for the environment. Unfortunately, supra-national organizations the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council have difficulty making any headway on issues like this during the best of times — which this most certainly isn’t.

Posted on April 8th, 2009 by Katxena