Denmark formally owning North Pole? I did not realise it was for sale, nor can fathom whose it was to sell, nor whose it was to buy.
The Arctic’s retreating ice offers access to unconventional oil resources, precious minerals and new sea lanes; but of course it also carries grave dangers for the planet at large. This geopolitical rat race to profiteer from global warming's melting of the Arctic reminds me of Henry George’s 1879 declaration that “we must make land common property”. 140 years later, with the planet in peril from anthropogenic climate change, George's declaration echoes in my imagination as a call to privatise not land, but to privatise ecosystem services. The value should not be in a landmass’s very short-term, destructive, gain; but rather in its long-term, life-giving, and planet-saving gains.
Rather than countries and companies fighting to profit from the melting of our Earth’s icebergs and albedo areas, would it not be more prudent to jointly own the Arctic to protect it? While my meandering musing may sound very naïve and idealistic, economising and making viable markets out of ecoystems’ essential services is ‘a thing’. Humankind benefits in a multitude of ways from nature’s processes, these benefits are known as ecosystem services. The seminal Millennium Ecosystem Assessment marketised ecosystem services in 2005 and since then private investors have natural capital portfolios; management consultants have attempted to price carbon emissions; municipal governments embrace the concept to deliver safe drinking water and manage civic wastes; and the FT and the Economist publications advocate for pricing natural capital.
Voltaire was sickened by lawyers’ pride in private ownership of land being the very foundation of civilisation. In today’s world addled by unfettered free markets and short-term speculation, common ownership of land and common ownership of ecosystem services could be an opportunity for the very foundation of a new, sustainable civilisation.
Rather than oil drilling in tar sands and other unconventional oil sites by the Arctic Circle, would it not be better to preserve the very necessary albedo ice cover with which the North Pole balances the entire Earth? Joint ownership of the Arctic as an ecosystem service site could conserve our Earth for everyone, for the entire planet, and for future generations, to give civilisation the chance to live a healthy future, into the 22nd century and beyond.
Countries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the determination of their outer limits tells us how important the Arctic has become. The Great Game is moving to the north. At stake are the huge, untapped resources of oil, gas and minerals thought to lie under the Arctic. A US government study suggests that as much as 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 per cent of its oil could lie in the Arctic.