What I’ve Learned So Far – Block 2 – The Arctic

What I’ve Learned So Far – Block 2 – The Arctic

When I tell people that I’m studying for a degree, they are interested in what I’ve been learning. I’ve done two years so far (another four to go) and my favourite was the first year. I absolutely loved it.

Here’s what I learned in my first year studying toward BSc (Hons) Environmental Science.

In one of the first questions I was asked at the start of the textbook was write down what images came to mind when I thought about the word ‘Arctic’. For me it was; polar bear, igloo, and a person shivering from the cold. It turns out the Arctic is much more than that.

The Arctic has always fascinated me. I find it incredible that an extracted cylinder of ice can tell us so much about the past. When I first saw a picture of an ice cylinder, the line markers for each year were clearly visible indicating the snowfall for that particular year, similar to the rings on a tree trunk. In one of the pictures, I recall seeing a line marker that was easy to pick out, the others were various shades of white, but not this one, it was black, this indicated a volcanic eruption, and by counting the lines allowed scientists to know which year this event occurred. The information that can be gathered isn’t only about volcanic eruptions, from the air bubbles trapped in the ice, we can determine what the CO2 level was the year that snow fell, these bubbles are ‘fossils’ frozen in time giving us clues about what the atmosphere was like thousands of years ago.

We learned about the people and animals who live in the Arctic circle. The indigenous people have so much knowledge that has been passed down the generations, what would happen if this information isn’t recorded somewhere? This crucial information could be lost forever. The block looked as the many voyages to the area and people’s idea of the region and looked at two maps; The Mercator projection and The Peters projection. For those who are fans of The West Wing, you will be familiar with the scene that discusses this in season 1. The map you’re familiar with, isn’t quite correct.

As the Arctic is melting, access to the region is becoming a real possibility for companies who would like to drill and/or use it as passage during the summer months benefitting in shorter journeys by sea.

Whenever I thought about the Arctic melting, I immediately became concerned about the animals and people who live in the region; how will they manage as the ice continues to melt. Although the region refreezes during winter, the area refrozen is reduces every year. How can they adapt to a quickly changing environment? It never even occurred to me there would be companies interested in the Arctic for opportunities to drill for fossil fuels and the damage they will almost certainly cause to the environment.

The thought of drilling in the Arctic makes me sad and one of the reasons companies haven’t actually followed through with their plan is because the weather is incredibly harsh during the winter months. I think that’s the Arctic’s saving grace at the moment. Sadly, I don’t know how long the Arctic will be able to keep these companies away?

The TMA question was for us to pretend to be a curator of a museum, selecting five items with the theme ‘Exploitation of resources in the Arctic’. Once we had selected our five items, we had to write an audio guide for it.

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