Monday, August 9, 2010

The Aussies and Antarctica as a World Heritage Site

Those Australians - always thinking about Antarctica! Whatever else you might think about Australians and Australian politics, you've (well, I've) gotta love the fact that Antarctic protection is a relevant political issue. The Australian Green Party is showing its annoyance that the continent does not yet have World Heritage Site status. Unlike other sites, Antarctica is already under international control so listing it would seem to be uncontroversial. Sometimes, governments might be concerned that listing something as a World Heritage Site would invite international scrutiny even though the designation doesn't change ownership. But there are the somewhat prickly issues of the unresolved claims to Antarctica by various countries, including Australia. These concerns could prevent other signatories to the Antarctic Treaty that governs Antarctica from supporting the designation.

I'm not even sure how an international site gets listed. The difficulty of doing so might be what has kept the ruling Labor Party in Australia from pursuing it as they promised. Too much trouble for too little gain. There aren't any voters in Antarctica to support them in a subsequent election. The Labor Party has already taken Japan to court over whaling - why ruffle any more feathers? In any case, making Antarctica a World Park (different than World Heritage but similar idea) used to be a major goal of ASOC, and we're glad to see that the debate's not dead. At the same time, it's a bit depressing that protecting an area with no permanent inhabitants and a negligible contribution to the economy (through tourism and fishing) is still difficult and controversial. If we can't save Antarctica what can we save?

No comments: