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Changes in Latitudes Call for Changes in Attitudes: Towards a Recognition of a Global Imperative for Stewardship, Not Exploitation, in the Arctic

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Abstract: For more than two centuries, the imagination of mariners has been captured by visions of a trade route across the Arctic Sea allowing vessels to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Known as the Northwest Passage, this fabled route is a time and money-saving sea lane running from "the Atlantic Ocean Arctic Circle to the Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle (Latitude 66.56220N). " Historically, "[t]he Northwest Passage did not exist until Europeans invented it. " And as the ill-fated attempts to discover the elusive route confirmed, historically the passage has consistently been ice-blocked. In 1845, when Sir John Franklin set out to find the elusive Northwest Passage, he and his crew paid the ultimate price for the dream: their lives. Now, however, the thinning of the ice in the Arctic may transform what was once only a dream into a reality. Currently, any efforts by mariners or merchants to traverse the Northwest Passage with any regularity are still foiled by ice. However, on March 4, 2013, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Plus published a paper that "estimated that new shipping lanes linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are likely to open between 2040 and 2059. " If loss in ice extent continues, it is predicted that by 2050, "the Northwest Passage will be sufficiently navigable to make the trip from the North American east coast to the Bering Strait in 15 days. " What makes the new shipping lanes so attractive is that they may be navigated not only by Polar Class ice-breaking ships, but by "normal ocean-going vessels " without requiring an escort of an ice-breaker. " In addition, by mid-century, shipping may be the only real viable method of transportation in the Arctic. While there are certainly monetary and logistical positives for the global shipping with a new shortcut that saves two weeks of travel time, scientists fear that increased vessel traffic may also be opening a Pandora s box of safety, environmental and legal issues. Of course, ice is still the major obstacle to navigating the Northwest Passage, particularly "multiyear sea ice. " In the past, however, such obstacles have not daunted governments or businesses from pressing ahead to discover with the goal of commercializing new trade routes. Neither Christopher Columbus nor Captain James Cook had charts, services, or infrastructure when they set out on their voyages of discovery. Rather, Cook s discovery of the Hawaiian Islands resulted from the British fixation with discovering a Northwest Passage. To paraphrase George Santayana, it is almost inconceivable that the history of nations striving for lucrative trade routes will not be repeated and the future see an increase in vessel traffic in the Arctic. After providing a brief overview of the Arctic Council in Part I, Part II of this Article sets the stage for the remainder of the piece by recounting a scenario that highlights the potential dangers for the Arctic if nations embrace "a race for resources " approach to developing the area rather than one of stewardship. Part III will serve as a microcosm to illustrate the many concerns surrounding a future including a dramatic increase in vessel traffic in the area. Specifically, this Part will focus on the unique problems associated with the exchange of ballast water. It will also consider how a change in the attitudes and perceptions of those involved in the global maritime industry may lead to global solutions for the Arctic. Finally, in Part IV, an international consensus model will be compared to a more litigious, state-by-state approach to see which is most likely to serve as the more effective mechanism for achieving Arctic solutions. The nascent Polar Code emanating from the combined efforts of a number of nations will be endorsed, contending that such a code is the requisite cornerstone of any strategic plan to solve the dilemma of reconciling the goal of increased maritime commercial activity with that of protecting the delicate balance of the Arctic environment and the culture of its indigenous peoples.

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