New political battle lines emerge in Arctic – by Stephen Bede Scharper (Toronto Star – May 20, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Disputes over Arctic development are not ultimately a ‘clash of civilizations’ but a clash of world views.

In the summer of 2010, while I was visiting an ecological research station near Tobermory, Ont., the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil rig was gushing out of control approximately 1,500 miles due south in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gazing across the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, I wondered how I would feel if a collapsed oil rig were fouling this clear, remarkably beautiful expanse of the Great Lakes. I winced internally imagining the waters and arresting vistas that had become so meaningful to me becoming blackened by such a tragedy.

Perhaps such thoughts also crossed the minds of native groups in the Arctic last week as they called for a moratorium on oil extraction in their homelands, which are now rapidly opening up to mining and development owing to a warming North.

In a statement released in Kiruna, Sweden, May 13 shortly before a meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council, 42 aboriginal signatories from Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and the U.S. called for a halt to offshore oil drilling and a hold placed on northern energy projects until local native groups have consented to such interventions.

“It is time,” the statement intones, “that the oil companies and the Arctic states change their path and start to listen to the voices of the indigenous peoples residing in these lands.”

Claiming that effective methods to contain and clean up the inevitable oil spills have not yet been devised, the statement adds that drilling on traditional aboriginal lands should also cease until governments and industry demonstrate improved environmental sensitivities and standards.

Given the BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, this appeal has merit. Lots of it.

A little refresher on the BP saga might be helpful.

Last year British Petroleum (BP) pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges, consenting to shell out $4.5 billion (U.S.) for the loss of life and ecological devastation caused by its Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BP also admitted to withholding documents from and providing false information to a U.S. congressional investigation, claiming an estimated oil leak rate of 5,000 barrels a day when actually more than 60,000 barrels were spewing every 24 hours into the Gulf.

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