EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Two articles in the Danish press caught my attention and concern last week.

One was the possible end of a 20-year moratorium on whale hunting. An article in Politiken on 5 June 2010 stated that there were indications that Denmark (and several other nations!) might agree to lift the ban on hunting whales.

The article states that the issue is up for discussion in the International Whale Commission (IWC) and if Denmark and other nations agree, the moratorium might be lifted and the hunting of whales resumed, in spite of the stated opinion that the whale population has not yet recovered.

For example, the fin whale is still on the list of endangered species but could be included in hunting, possibly even in the internationally accepted whale reserve in Antarctica.

Furthermore, certain countries have been hunting whales for “scientific reasons” – an unacceptable excuse and seemingly totally unnecessary.

Whales are some of the largest and most impressive creatures on the planet, and hunting them is totally unjustified.

Whale meat and whale oil are not products that the world cannot live without – and the whale industry could convert to other activities, such as renewable and sustainable green industries, which will become a major potential source of revenue in the future.

The whale population belongs to the world. Denmark, the rest of the EU and all other countries must vote for a continued ban on hunting the global whale population. Whales are part of our inheritance and we are responsible for protecting their population for future generations.

The other article was in Berlingske Tidende on 3 June 2010: the headline was ‘Insane to drill for oil in Greenland’, with the subtitle ‘Oil companies gamble with Greenland’s nature’. It went on to state that one oil company was already preparing its first exploration near Disco Bay (on the west coast of Greenland, some 500km north of the city of Nuuk). This area – between Canada and Greenland – is one of the most beautiful coastal areas of Greenland, an attraction for nature seekers and an environmentally sensitive area. It is an ocean full of marine life, including whales.

We have already seen the devastating results from oil spills in many parts of the world’s oceans. Unfortunately, we might easily forget them over time, but the devastating consequences remain, even if the catastrophes are no longer making media headlines.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has again alerted us to the high risks of (deep-)sea drilling and the devastating ecological and environmental disasters it may cause, in some cases with irreversible consequences for bird and marine life; not to mention the potential economic consequences it might have for the fishing industry.

Any oil drilling is a risk, and no safety system, however good and well-prepared it might be, can ever be foolproof. As for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic area, it seems for a number of reasons to be – as the article’s headline rightly states – ‘insane to drill for oil’ in the Arctic, including Greenland.

Not only would the oil drilling be limited to a short period of the year (stated in the article to be less than six months) but you are also confronted with the moving ice sheet, not on Greenland itself, but in the sea around it and in the whole North Pole area.

How do you cope with an oil leak or spill below the sea ice? Polar bears are already threatened by melting ice! How will an oil spill affect their habitat and marine life in general in this region of the world? We have no chance whatsoever of coping with an oil spill in the Arctic. Consequently, it’s insane and irresponsible to even consider such oil exploration.

Needless to say, that for those involved, it’s attractive from an economic angle, with important revenues for the Greenland authorities; but there are most likely many other ways to secure the future income of Greenland before considering very risky oil exploration.

Apart from the potential environmental and biodiversity catastrophes, the fundamental resource and income for the past many hundreds of years for Greenland – fishing – might well be endangered for a long time by an oil spill: like we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the even more stupid aspect of possible oil exploration in the Arctic is that we do not need it! We have alternative energy resources and technologies at hand; wind and other sustainable and renewable energy resources are now available – as well in the near future – and there are biofuels for Greenland’s fishing and transport industry.

So why gamble and create a high-risk scenario when it’s not necessary? Why put the irreplaceable nature, environment and biodiversity of Greenland at risk, when we have alternatives at hand?

The combination of ending the moratorium on whale hunting and the high risk of potential catastrophes to the environment of the whales’ territories from an oil spill seem like a severe act of human irresponsibility; an unacceptable act of greed.

Whale hunting in general and oil exploration in the Arctic is totally unnecessary and an incredible act of human stupidity.

Robert Arendal

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