An examination of the devastating ecological, political and geographic consequences of climate change in the Arctic.
Struzik (The Big Thaw: Travels in the Melting North, 2009) has spent nearly 30 years writing about the Arctic, one of the world’s most sensitive and vital ecosystems, and he has no doubts that this fragile environment is undergoing unprecedented change. Recounting his years in the Arctic wild, he has enormous respect and reverence for the area’s delicate beauty. Through a mixture of personal observations and the latest academic and governmental reports on the region, Struzik concludes that while the Arctic has known periods of unusual warming in its history, recent changes are more rapid and severe than at any time before. The author provides no shortage of documentation to show that man’s encroachment in the area has been the deciding factor. For instance, oil-sands extraction has been an economic boom to the Arctic in recent years, but it has also brought human development and toxic runoff that contaminates nearby water sources. Locals and indigenous groups have noticed the direct changes wrought by oil and gas exploration and other projects like damming, as well as drastic shifts in ecological habits within the last 20 years—e.g., huge storm surges, massive wildfires and summer cyclones. Struzik is clever to point out that this rapid development in the Arctic is in part because the area was considered useless for most of history, except for a northwest passage. Nowadays, shipping routes through the Arctic are possible thanks to decreased amounts of sea ice and greater melt periods, which has also caused strange new migratory patterns in marine life. With perhaps the exception of Norway, governments consistently underfund research budgets in favor of allocating funds for industrial development and military installations, while the Arctic’s distress signals go unheeded. As Struzik notes, the changes in the Arctic will continue to surprise.
An urgent, passionate defense of ecological conservation and understanding.