Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet

Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet

Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet

Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet

Excerpt

A thousand years ago, as the first millennium drew towards its close, prophets of doom proclaimed the imminent end of the world, and a paler version of this kind of fin de siècle fatalism has tended to recur at the end of each century since. As we approach the year 2000, there are many candidates for legitimate concern: nuclear holocaust, world population explosion and accompanying famine, an AIDS epidemic, genetic manipulation and abuse, global warming resulting from the greenhouse effect. These are large issues, united by a feature highly characteristic of our times: the fear that our scientific and technological temerity has gone too far and aroused the ire, and will perhaps produce the nemesis, of nature. It is science -- global, macro-science -- that excites and frightens people today.

None of these fears is trivial, but of them all the most awesome are those that concern not just the people on earth but the globe itself. After all, if we manage to avoid blowing ourselves up, keep world population within manageable limits, find a cure for AIDS and breed responsible geneticists, this would count for little if we bequeath our heirs an earth that is uninhabitably hot or cold, wet or dry. Thus, environmental issues are rapidly coming to assume higher priority and governments until recently oblivious of the dangers of chlorofluorocarbons or leaded petrol are now keen to appear 'Green'. My contention is that the governments and peoples should also learn to think 'White'. For it is in the vast but little-known polar regions that the key to the future of the planet probably lies.

The Arctic and Antarctic are two of the greatest deserts on earth, the least known and the most vital to our survival. They are in many ways, as well as literally, polar opposites. The High Arctic is a sea surrounded by land, Antarctica a . . .

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