ASOC has been gearing up for several months for the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, which will be held this year in Baltimore in the United States. It's the 50th anniversary of the Treaty, and as rumblings increase about the possible exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Arctic, it's the perfect time to celebrate the fairly revolutionary nature of the Treaty. As discussed by the journalist Peter Dykstra, the Treaty is a pretty impressive document. The Treaty reserved the continent for peace and science, and eventually incorporated a moratorium on minerals exploitation. The Treaty isn't perfect, however, with growing environmental threats from fishing, tourism, bioprospecting, and climate change. ASOC will be making the case for strong Antarctic environmental protection in its position as an observer to the Treaty system during the upcoming meeting.
In somewhat related news, the director of the Malaysian Antarctic Research Program (MARP) is urging his country to become a Consultative Party. It seems like Malaysia has a strong interest in studying climate change, and in environmental protection. The director noted, "With research, one can also find economic, sustainable economic benefits in Antarctica. However, we
must never let human greed take over such research as it might have greater negative impact on the planet." The article goes on to say that "When asked regarding the fact that global warming was a cycle that the planet had undergone many times prior to this, Dr Azizan commented,'Well, it's a matter of survivability and comfort. The planet will always be here, it's a question where we will be here or not, whether we can survive through it in comfort or not or whether we can survive or not.' " If Malaysia does indeed become a party to the Antarctic Treaty, it seems that it would be an interesting addition to the Treaty System, and could perhaps provide a strong voice for environmental protection.
Since we'll be at the meeting for the next two weeks, posting may be light but we hope to get some dispatches out, so watch this space for the inside scoop on what happens when fortysomething countries get together and try to agree on things!