Management of Cold Environments

Cold environments offer many economic opportunities for communities that live there through mining, oil extraction and tourism. However, these activities can potentially damage the very ecosystems that our world relies on for global temperature regulation.

A lot of the cold environments are wilderness, therefore they are mainly unchanged by people and remain undisturbed. They hold great value as one of the few places on Earth where human impact is minimal, providing opportunities for research.

Cold environments are especially fragile. All biotic and abiotic components within them are specially adapted to that cold environment and cannot quickly adapt to dramatic changes.

As climate change has accelerated over the past 50 years, we can see its effect on animals like polar bears. As polar bears have adapted to hunt on ice, their hunting grounds are disappearing as the ice melts. Because of this, polar bear numbers have been decreasing, and they are considered a vulnerable species.

Human activity and mistakes are changing cold environments at a rapid rate, and it’s destroying the ecosystem.

Sustainable Management Strategies

How humans interact with cold environments is within our control. For cold environments to survive, human activity must be managed sustainably. 

Sustainable management involves controlling the impact of human activity. This means ensuring that an environment can recover quickly, that the environment isn’t damaged, that the ecosystem functions effectively and that local people can benefit from their environment.

Basic Strategies

Here are some basic sustainable management strategies for cold environments:

  • Use geothermal power, if available.
  • Promote ecotourism.
  • Increase conservation areas, providing space for plants and animals to live without interference.
  • Respect and promote indigenous cultures and customs, which often focus on sustainable action and respecting the Earth.
  • Educate populations on basic environmental care.
  • Find ways to minimise pollution.

In Iceland, for example, geothermal energy is harnessed from volcanic activity. Steam powers wind turbines that generate electricity for houses.

Government Action

Regulating development is crucial. Governments must prioritise moral responsibility over financial gain. They decide who gets to mine, build or develop land that could lead to environmental damage. Laws to protect the environment can:

  • Designate wildlife sanctuaries
  • Create jobs focused on environmental protection
  • Introduce punishments for environmental crimes

Governments can also fund environmental research to better understand how humans can protect their environments.

Global Action

After World War Two, countries have worked together more efficiently than ever before. To create a safe and protected world, the global community can significantly help protect cold environments.

The 1961 Antarctic Treaty restricted commercial exploitation of Antarctica. It specified that Antarctica is solely for peaceful purposes, all military activity is strictly prohibited, and it is mainly used for scientific research.

The 1998 Protocol on Environmental Protection was added to the 1961 treaty, stating that:

  • No new activities are allowed until their potential impacts have been fully assessed
  • Cruise ships are limited to carrying no more than 500 passengers, and visitor groups must be no larger than 100
  • Military or nuclear activity is not allowed

In the 1960s, the U.S. drilled Alaska for oil. To protect certain areas, the government established the Western Arctic Reserve in northern Alaska.

Conservation Groups

Conservation groups raise global awareness, and pressure governments to adopt sustainable management methods and resist environmental destruction.

  • Organisations like the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace lobby for sustainable management and stand against environmental harm.
  • Independent charities collect data to provide clear reports about the damage from human activity.
  • Petitions can influence policy.
  • As they rely on donations, these groups have less power for immediate change than government policy. However, they can have a great influence on public opinion and policy-making over time.

Key Terms

TermDefinition
WildernessAn uncultivated, undeveloped area where people do not impact the ecosystems
GeothermalHeat generated from within the Earth
EcotourismTourism that respects and supports the environment without causing damage
Sustainable ManagementManaging development in an area to ensure the environment, economy and people will survive and thrive in the future

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