FIELD UPDATE: Frontline Environmental Groups Are Changing the Pollution Rules in China

When a mine leaks heavy metals into drinking water supply in China, or when school children fall sick due to contaminated soil, or when a factory exceeds its pollution permits for the 79th day in a row, whose job is it to respond?

Technically, these kinds of problems are the responsibility of China’s environmental enforcement arm: local Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs). Working from the provincial level down to towns, environmental officials have a robust toolkit of environmental laws and regulations to assist them in controlling pollution.

But practically speaking, they don’t have sufficient organizational strength or reach to deal with every issue that arises. Often local environmental groups are the first responders to a pollution crisis in China, and increasingly, these groups also play a role in ensuring problems don’t occur in the first place.

Take for example the issue of industrial parks. These mega-complexes have cropped up all over China in the past decade, in an attempt to keep industries out of residential zones. Two years ago, the local environmental group Green Stone (based in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province) realized that these industrial parks, far from better managing pollution problems, were merely concentrating pollutants and creating shields behind which industries could ignore pollution treatment regulations.

The ”Green Neighbors” program, which sheds light on the operations of industrial parks in the Nanjing metropolitan area, grew out of Green Stone’s volunteer monitoring network investigating industrial pollution throughout Jiangsu Province.

The ”Green Neighbors” program, which sheds light on the operations of industrial parks in the Nanjing metropolitan area, grew out of Green Stone’s volunteer monitoring network investigating industrial pollution throughout Jiangsu Province.

Green Stone launched its “Green Neighbors” program to shed light on the operations of industrial parks in the Nanjing metropolitan area, a region that produces many highly-polluting goods, such as furniture polishes, dyes and paints, electronics, and industrial chemicals. Green Stone started meeting with industrial park representatives together with EPB officials, using these forums to discuss the legal requirements around pollution information disclosure and public participation.

This year, Green Stone brought local citizens to the round-table discussions as well, resulting in one industrial park—well-known locally for the noxious odors it emits when producing the carcinogenic petrochemical alkyl benzene—agreeing to regularly disclose pollution data and allow a community committee to regularly monitor its operations.

Green Stone sees public supervision as a cornerstone of a cleaner future for China. As one staff member recently put it, “Even when the government adequately supervises environmental problems, and corporations have environmental governance systems in place, environmental problems will still not be effectively resolved; they require everyone living in the environment to engage in common efforts.”

Green Stone is now planning to expand its Green Neighbors program to other communities it serves, and it plans to share lessons learned from these efforts with other grassroots groups in China.

Green Stone’s Green Neighbors program is a great example of how public engagement allow industries and community members to work together to resolve pollution problems. Not only do communities need venues through which they can raise health and safety concerns, industries and government actors are often better served by hearing those concerns than turning a blind eye to community needs.

Recognizing these benefits, the public’s right to participate in environmental decision-making is now firmly enshrined in China’s environmental laws and regulations.


Pacific Environment’s annual network meeting in September 2016 brought together nine grassroots organizations from across China to share skills and plan campaigns.

Last month, Pacific Environment headed to China’s northeast to host its annual training and networking meeting for grassroots environmental groups from across the country. We met in a karaoke hall in a place called Mountain River Village, a cluster of brick homes and guesthouses interspersed between rows of corn and vegetables and surrounded by boreal forest.

This year’s trainings, role plays, and planning discussions all revolved around the topic of public participation in environmental decision making and how to take advantage of the new policy space opening up for grassroots environmental groups.

For example, new environmental regulations in China emphasize environmental hearings as an important public participation method, but so far, few of the hearings that have been organized have had real public participation.

To prepare groups to take better advantage of the opportunity presented by environmental hearings, we organized a mock hearing focusing on whether a local EPB should issue a new pollution permit to a factory that had repeatedly violated its pollution permits in the past. As the hearing reached its climax, the team portraying the local EPB criticized a pollution monitoring report introduced by the team portraying a local environmental group. “Where does your data come from?!” they shouted, “And why is this the first time we are seeing your report?!”

Meanwhile, the team portraying representatives from a local village started arguing amongst themselves, when one representative revealed she had accepted a color TV from the factory boss as a gift. As a real hearing might, our mock hearing ended without an actual decision on the permit, but we counted it as a successful learning exercise for these local environmental leaders who want to participate more meaningfully in pollution permitting and other decision processes.

Local environmental groups must prepare themselves well by forging strong ties with communities impacted by pollution, and also EPBs, often the primary audience they are trying to influence. Formal hearings are one promising avenue to exert such influence, but there is growing space to experiment with other methods as well.

So while some local groups like Green Stone are organizing multi-party discussion forums focused on specific pollution issues, other local groups using their influence to shape better environmental policies—a sphere that has traditionally been left to Beijing-based organizations and academics.

For example, Green Hunan (from Changsha, Hunan Province) recently collected feedback from local community members and other local environmental groups from across China on a recent draft of a national water pollution regulation. They compiled the feedback into a set of recommendations, such as ensuring that the new law upholds the same public participation and information disclosure language as the progressive Environmental Protection Law that came into force January 1, 2015.

The group hopes to engage in similar policy efforts in the future. “Green Hunan has had many on-the-ground successes on individual pollution cases,” a staff member explained, “and we want to do more to share our grassroots perspective in environmental policy discussions.”

Pacific Environment is proud to support the work of pioneering local environmental groups such as Green Hunan and Green Stone through our ongoing support program and our recently launched public participation initiative. We look forward to sharing further updates about how these groups and others are innovating in ways that help local communities contribute to positive environmental change.


Posted in Capacity-Building, China, Civil Society, Communities, Grassroots Activism, Rivers, Water | Comments Off on FIELD UPDATE: Frontline Environmental Groups Are Changing the Pollution Rules in China

URGENT: Take Action to Protect the Arctic Ocean from Dirty Shipping


Arctic Ocean ice just hit another all-time low. With more open water comes increased ship traffic.

Some of the ships traveling through pristine Arctic waters are powered by the world’s dirtiest, most dangerous oil: heavy fuel oil.

This dangerous oil is literally the residue left at the bottom of the barrel after lighter fuels have been distilled off. The only residues more dense than this fuel oil are used for asphalting streets and sealing roofs.

Tell the Obama Administration by Tuesday, September 27, that this dangerous oil, which has already been banned in Antarctic waters, does not belong in Arctic waters either.


Indigenous peoples across the Arctic practice traditional ways of life closely connected to the waters on which they rely for food.

Pacific Environment is leading international efforts to ban this dirty fuel from Arctic waters.

We have created a strong coalition of activists and experts, and we are working together to create new international rules to prevent a catastrophic heavy fuel oil spill. Such a spill has been identified by top Arctic experts as the biggest risk to the Arctic marine environment from increased shipping.

Because it largely does not evaporate, heavy fuel oil spilled in Arctic conditions would be catastrophic, threatening extinction of endangered species, even ecosystem collapse. Virtually impossible to clean up, heavy fuel oil is highly toxic and breaks down very slowly, particularly in the cold Arctic.

Ask the Obama Administration to champion new international rules in the Arctic that will protect many of the world’s largest seabird colonies and most of the world’s populations of several whales, seals, and walrus species.


Last year, hundreds of cormorants died when a Russian tanker carrying fuel oil hit a reef near Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific. Photo: Dima Lisitzyn

Our targeted advocacy to get this dangerous oil out of the Arctic is paying off. In response to our coalition’s persistent pressure, the Obama administration is finally starting to tackle this serious issue.

First, the President’s Joint Statement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this year committed both nations to “determine with Arctic partners how best to address the risks posed by heavy fuel oil use and black carbon emissions from Arctic shipping.”

Then, earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada took another big step in the right direction—once again spurred by our intense advocacy efforts.

They formally recognized that a “heavy fuel oil spill in the Arctic could cause long-term damage to the environment” in a paper submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency that writes the rules for the high seas.

Make no mistake. This is not just some technical paper. This is the beginning of real world change. The United States and Canada have committed themselves to work with other nations to address the use of this dangerous fuel in the Arctic.

And it’s not just the political leadership in the U.S. and Canada that’s coming around.Just this week, Denmark’s Liberal Party called for a ban of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. What’s more, even shipping industry groups are joining the fray: the Danish Shipowner’s Association also called for a ban of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic this week.

This is great progress, but we need you to add your voice to help us take it to the next level by Tuesday September 27!

Tell the United States to formally request that the international community start working on new international rules that will phase out heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.

Thank you for taking action.

Posted in Arctic, Biodiversity, Energy, Marine, Oceans, Policy, Russia, Russian Far East, Sakhalin, Shipping | Comments Off on URGENT: Take Action to Protect the Arctic Ocean from Dirty Shipping

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FIELD UPDATE: If Russians start worrying about coal …

When U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met a few days ago to ratify and affirm the climate commitments they made in Paris, that rightly got the big headlines.


But the agreements of Paris grew from the work in the trenches, done in the years preceding, by hundreds and thousands of organizations and millions of people worldwide.

The lesson of Paris was that local citizen power multiplied again and again could lead the world’s leaders to start down the path to a clean energy world.

That’s why I’m excited to be flying this week to the Russian Far East to join a three-day gathering of folks wanting to focus in on the health harms caused by the use of coal in Russia.

The strategy sessions will include doctors and health scientists, environmental campaigners, indigenous leaders, and community activists—most will be from Russia but some from China, the Philippines, United States, and Europe.

We’re meeting in Vladivostok, a lovely coastal city on the Pacific Ocean sometimes compared to San Francisco because of its fine climate and scenic hills.


Vladivostok was once the center of the Soviet Union’s Pacific fleet and a navy company town, but these days it has a more diversified economy and a populace that takes advantage of its many restaurants and shops.

Vladivostok is also one of several cities in the region slated to construct new export terminals to ship coal to China or elsewhere. At our conference, we’ll hear from local government officials, epidemiologists, and other health professionals on the threat a coal export facility poses to the citizens of Vladivostok.

Other sessions will discuss harms from coal mining to small indigenous communities in Siberia, and the meetings will culminate with working sessions on strategies and communication plans to bring the lessons from the meeting out to a broader audience.


Watch this short documentary, Condemned, on the Russian coal industry, which forces Siberian indigenous people out of their native land in the region of Kuzbass—one of the world’s largest coal deposits where over 50 percent of Russian coal is extracted.

And you can bet that the conference attendees in Vladivostok are going to be well aware that community leaders in Oakland, California, just succeeded in stopping a planned coal export terminal on the east side of the Pacific Ocean. I know they’re going to find inspiration and feel a spirit of kinship with their California counterparts.

That’s the larger context of the meetings in Vladivostok this week. And it’s why there will be participants from the smallest villages near Vladivostok and from Moscow, Beijing, Boston, and elsewhere.

Local citizen power multiplied again and again. If local citizens and officials in the Russian Far East start weighing the health impacts of coal use, where can’t we win?

Posted in Capacity-Building, Civil Society, Climate Change, Coal, Communities, Energy, Global, Grassroots Activism, Russia, Russia Community Partners, Russian Far East, Sustainable Development | Comments Off on FIELD UPDATE: If Russians start worrying about coal …

Tell the President to Stop All Arctic Drilling


We need your help. Tell President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Jewell to halt proposed plans to allow drilling in Alaskan waters.

America’s Arctic is under threat from potential new offshore oil drilling.


Shell recently announced that it is abandoning its Arctic Ocean drilling program. But that’s not enough. Big oil is waiting to snap up new offshore oil and gas leases.

Tell the President and Secretary Jewell that you do not want new offshore oil drilling in America’s Arctic.

The stakes are high. The Arctic is a remote and fragile place. Local communities rely on the sea for food. Offshore oil drilling in dangerous Arctic waters could lead to a catastrophic oil spill—putting Arctic wildlife and communities that depend on pristine Arctic waters for food security at risk.      

President Obama has made climate and the Arctic a focal point of his administration, including his historic visit to Alaska last summer.

Tell the President and Secretary Jewell to end drilling in Alaska’s Arctic waters for good.

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Climate Change, Communities, Energy, Grassroots Activism, Marine, Oceans, offshore drilling, Sustainable Development | Comments Off on Tell the President to Stop All Arctic Drilling

Kicking the Coal Habit Moves to the Mainstream in China


By: Deng Ping and Kristen McDonald
Originally published in The Huffington Post

What is one sure-fire way to reduce devastating pollution in China, decrease carbon emissions and stabilize the economy? Cool down the country’s overheated coal industry. And in fact, that’s exactly what energy and development regulators are trying to do. Let’s review some recent signs that China is moving away from coal:

Sign #1: China is reducing the number of new coal mines:


This is welcome news because for too long China’s coal industry has been too big for its britches. By the end of 2015, total coal mining capacity had already reached 5.7 billion tons – much more than the 3.75 billion tons actually mined in 2015 and well above the 3.65 billion tons targeted for 2016. The recent bans are a positive sign that the government of China is serious about trying to keep more coal in the ground.

Sign #2: China is reducing the number of new coal power plants:

  • In September, 2013: new coal power plants (except combined heat and power plants) werebanned in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other eastern regions;
  • In March 2016, the Chinese news magazine Southern Energy Observer reported coal plant construction will be halted in 13 out of China’s 23 provinces.


This is also critical news, because China has not just too many mines but also too many coal power plants. Currently, there are some 300,000 MW worth of projects approved or under construction (for comparison, that’s almost the size of the total existing US coal power capacity). But the National Energy Administration says only 2/3 of that planned capacity will actually be needed to meet China’s power needs in the coming five years. The recent regulations on coal power plants will hopefully ensure hundreds of unneeded plants are not built.

Sign #3: China is reducing coal consumption:

  • In June, 2014, the State Council announced that the country’s annual coal consumption would be limited to 4.2 billion tons per year by 2020, and that coal would make up just 62% of the total energy mix (it’s now at 64%). Earlier predictions were that consumption would rise to 4.8 billion tons by 2020.
  • By February, 2015, official data showed coal consumption had declined by 2.9% in 2014, the first decline in almost 14 years;
  • In January, 2016, official data showed China’s coal consumption had again declined, this time by 3.7% from 2015.


Some of this decline is tied with the country’s economic slow-down, but it’s not just about the economy. Dirty energy is always a losing investment when you consider the price the Chinese people are paying. A recent Tsinghua University study found that outdoor air pollution from coal alone caused an estimated 366,000 deaths in China in 2013. Another recent study warned air pollution is killing about 4,400 people in China every single day.

Coal damage in northern China. Photo credit: Sun Qingwei

Coal damage in northern China.                                                                    photo credit: Sun Qingwei

Further, according to a recent Greenpeace study, 45% of Chinese operational coal power plants are located in water “over-withdrawn” regions – meaning they are contributing to China’s serious water shortages. And little reported outside of China, massive coal operations have displaced millions of people. In just two coal regions, Lianghuai in Anhui and Luxi in Shandong, 2.73 million residents had to be relocated. This is over twice as many people as were displaced by the Three Gorges Dam. In Shanxi province, 2.3 million people have been seriously harmed – such as having their homes destroyed or water supplies cut – from land sinks caused by coal mining.

As a result of this coal catastrophe change is coming fast in China, yet the government’s plans to keep the coal industry at a manageable size will only have staying power if un-needed, un-permitted, outdated coal facilities are permanently closed, and cleaner energy options are supported. Even more resources are needed for renewable energy, as well as enforcement to ensure localities stick to the “coal diet” the country’s leaders have proposed. And of course, the US and other big emissions countries need to complement China’s efforts by cleaning up our own houses as well.

One thing is for certain: kicking the coal habit has moved squarely into China’s mainstream. Even Liu Zhenya, the head of China’s State Grid, the largest power company in the world, recently spoke out in favor of moving away from coal. “It’s better to move on to the next generation of energy technologies,” he argued. “And China believes it might as well start now.”

Posted in China, Climate Change, Coal, Global | Comments Off on Kicking the Coal Habit Moves to the Mainstream in China

Chinese Enviro Group Uses Hazmat Suits to Protect a River



When plans moved forward to build another dam across the heavily polluted Xiang River, members of Green Hunan’s volunteer network dressed up in white hazmat suits to alert the public to a major threat: The section of the river that would fill the reservoir had been used for decades as the city of Changsha’s sewage dump.

Green Hunan’s bold play went viral on China’s social media: this image had over 300,000 views and more than 10,000 shares.

Green Hunan’s bold play went viral on China’s social media: this image had over 300,000 views and more than 10,000 shares.


Once the dam was built, the wastewater would collect in the reservoir and pollute the city’s drinking water and damage already stressed river life.

Green Hunan’s bold publicity gained traction. Several big news outlets started following the story, even calling for swift clean up.

As a result, the local government finally began updating its sewage and wastewater systems, starting with renovations of three big pump stations that were releasing untreated wastewater into the river.

Signs that indicate where companies release polluted wastewater are a common sight along the Xiang River. Green Hunan campaigned to put these up to warn the public not to go swimming or fishing in these polluted river sections.

Signs that indicate where companies release polluted wastewater are a common sight along the Xiang River. Green Hunan campaigned to put these up to warn the public not to go swimming or fishing in these polluted river sections.


With only 18 days left until the deadline for the upgrades, Green Hunan’s volunteers were on site every day to monitor progress. In the end, the facilities completed the required renovations on time—marking a big win for Green Hunan, the Xiang River, and the citizens of Changsha.

In 2016, we will continue to work with grassroots groups like Green Hunan in Changsha to clean up rivers and pressure polluters to improve their environmental record or shut down.



Posted in Capacity-Building, China, Civil Society, Freshwater, Grassroots Activism, Rivers, Water | Comments Off on Chinese Enviro Group Uses Hazmat Suits to Protect a River

Will the Paris Deal Protect the Most Vulnerable?


On the last day of the Paris Climate Summit, I sat without internet at a related Arctic symposium. The plus side was that I paid attention to the speakers rather than checking my email. The downside was that I sat in suspense, wondering if the long-awaited agreement from the international talks would be announced. I felt a bit disconnected. Although we had set up a forum for our international partners to be heard in Paris, especially on impacts of coal, the final decisions were now being made by delegates in closed-door meetings.

I’m not the only one feeling disconnected. There are many voices from around the world that did not reach Paris, including my husband’s Native Village of Allakaket. In his tiny Arctic Alaska village, households lack running water, let alone internet. No one from Allakaket was invited to the Paris talks. Yet like many other Alaska Native communities, Allakaket is suffering from flooding, erosion, and changes to wildlife on which villagers depend. Because of shoreline erosion and rising sea levels, a number of these villages must relocate.


Coastal Arctic communities are on the front lines of climate change and oil and gas development. Goldman Environmental Prize photo

In the Arctic, there is no lack of challenge or irony. The region is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, but many Arctic places are centers of intensive oil and gas drilling. Communities near these places have benefited from modern conveniences brought by oil revenues.

Those of us who live with modern conveniences, myself included, can’t imagine being without them. Some residents of Arctic communities that enjoy electricity and public health services are insulted when people from the lower 48 suggest that they stop drilling their oil reserves. They ask, “Do you expect us to sit in the dark so you can feel good about saving the environment?”

Vulnerable communities from developing countries are asking the same question. There are more than seven billion of us on this planet, and we all want to live comfortably.

So I raised the question at the Arctic Symposium, “Shouldn’t our governments be helping provide an alternative to oil and gas development?”  I targeted the question at the State of Alaska, which has concentrated its economic development in the oil sector rather than fostering a more diversified, resilient economy.

How do we provide for communities that still lack basic amenities, prepare for adaptations needed on the front lines of climate change, and move toward a sustainable economy not based on fossil fuel extraction, all while giving those who live in the region a voice in these decisions? If we from privileged backgrounds want people to put aside their dirty coal and oil, then we have a responsibility to help pay for their sustainable, responsible development—development that avoids adding to our greenhouse gas burden.

The Paris Agreement takes several steps in the right direction. It sets a goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius, but recognizes the need to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid incremental damage.  Countries must submit plans every five years outlining their emissions reductions. Forest protection is encouraged as a means to absorb carbon.

And this is perhaps the first of any climate agreement to recognize the need for compensation for the loss and damage that climate change causes. Developed countries are required to help developing countries pay for both adaptation and mitigation, although levels of funding are not specified.

But if it stops there, the Paris Agreement will be nothing more than a feel-good declaration. It is up to us—the privileged as well as the vulnerable—to keep pushing from the bottom up. We have to hold our leaders to meaningful emissions reductions and ensure that vulnerable communities are empowered to sustainably adapt and develop. Otherwise it will not be just a few Alaska villages washing away, their culture irreparably lost, but large swaths of humanity.

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Bering Sea, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Change, Communities, Grassroots Activism, Marine, offshore drilling, Policy, Russia, Russian Far East, Sustainable Development | Comments Off on Will the Paris Deal Protect the Most Vulnerable?

No More Business As Usual in Nanjing

While world leaders were gathered in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, everyday life came to a standstill in Beijing this week as thick smog blanketed China’s capital. 

Air pollution had reached such an unhealthy level that the city government issued its first-ever red alert, closing schools, clearing cars off the road, and powering down factories.

For over a decade, Pacific Environment has been partnering with grassroots leaders across the country to help reign in the country’s horrendous air and water pollution that is sickening communities and poisoning rivers.


One such courageous grassroots leader is Li Chunhua, better known as “Xiao Bai” or “Little White.” Her group, Green Stone in Nanjing, started out 10 years ago with seed funding from Pacific Environment to clean up pollution, promote transparency, and hold polluters and government officials accountable.

Green Stone published an online map of polluters. Soon, Xiao Bai says, “We started getting calls from factory managers who wanted to know what they had to do to get off the map.” And so Green Stone started advising big companies on their environmental practices.

This year alone, Green Stone’s impressive results include six polluting factories closed down, 30 more fined and issued orders to clean up by local authorities, and a criminal investigation launched against a company owner. 

Xiao Bai and her organization have effectively changed the way companies do business in the city of Nanjing. And along the way they pioneered a public participation model that helps communities clean up severe air and water pollution through cooperation with local business leaders and government authorities.


Pacific Environment and our partners in China are committed to continuing our grassroots efforts to help solve the country’s air and water pollution crises.

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The Arctic Offers a Glimpse into Our Planet’s Future


This past summer an important thing happened in America’s Arctic.

President Obama, who previously had only stopped in Alaska to refuel Air Force One, decided to spend some quality time with us to explore our magnificent landscapes. And he fell in love—not only with our jaw-dropping scenery, but also with our vibrant Alaska Native cultures.

Seven years into his presidency, President Obama finally spent some time exploring Alaska's wilds and meeting with local communities.

Almost seven years into his presidency, President Obama finally spent some quality time exploring Alaska’s wilderness and meeting with local communities.

A friend of mine who works in Washington, D.C., said when she was in the West Wing of the White House a few weeks ago she was startled to see the walls lined with photos of the President’s visit to Alaska. He clearly was impressed.

While in Alaska, President Obama addressed international ministers gathered to discuss climate change with a focus on the Arctic. The President spoke passionately to the need to address climate change and specifically noted that “[…] the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change—our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces.”

I can’t help but think that images of Alaska were at the forefront of the President’s mind when he traveled to Paris to secure a binding worldwide agreement to protect our environment as our planet’s warming accelerates.

Here in Alaska, America’s Arctic, warming happens more than two times faster than the average global rate. Summer sea ice has been reduced by 40% since 1979, and the Arctic Ocean may be completely ice free during summers starting this century.

Arctic communities are already experiencing firsthand the challenges to their homes and food supplies as the climate rapidly changes. Villages face relocation as shorelines erode without sea ice as protection from heavy waves. Failed hunts associated with loss of sea ice have also caused food shortages.

Arctic flora and fauna are particularly vulnerable in the face of these changes, as they have adapted exquisitely to the extremely harsh conditions in the Arctic. The weather alterations, disappearing ice ecosystem, and warming temperatures pose an existential threat to much of the Arctic’s wildlife.

As the sea ice recedes, numerous nations are looking to expand industrial activities into Arctic seas and coastal waters. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that up to 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and up to 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves are located in the Arctic. The world’s largest corporations unabashedly announce the “opening” of the Arctic as an historic moment, rich with opportunity for profit.

Oil companies have been fighting for years to drill in the Alaskan Arctic (in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Bering Seas) and the Russian Arctic (in the Sea of Okhotsk off the coast of Kamchatka). And there is tremendous pressure to build new transportation links—ports, rail lines, and roads—to move coal, oil, and gas out of these pristine environments to manufacturing centers around the world.

Commercial shipping companies are plotting new shipping lanes across the “opening” Arctic. This increased ship traffic will dramatically ramp up disturbances to marine mammals, diesel emissions, and the risk of catastrophic oil spills.

But there is hope for the Arctic. If we can slow the rate of climate change, adopt stringent restrictions on discharges into Arctic marine waters, and develop protected areas both on land and in the seas, then we will be able to protect one of the last great wilds on our planet.

Indeed, what happens in Paris this week is important. And I’m glad President Obama will have firsthand images of Alaska and its peoples on his mind as he argues to es of Alaska and its peoples on his mind as he argues to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to reign in climate change.

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Bering Sea, Civil Society, Climate Change, Communities, Global, Marine, Oceans, Policy, Russia, Russian Far East | Comments Off on The Arctic Offers a Glimpse into Our Planet’s Future

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