Cold environments may be developed in a sustainable manner. To what extent do you agree with this statement? I disagree with this statement more than I agree with it. Cold environments in the world that were previously wilderness areas have undergone development, and nearly all of them have proved to be unsustainable. In the alpine areas, the mountains are a major magnet because of the scenery and the wide variety of winter sports that can take place there. The Alps have been developed as a tourist area. Although tourism benefits the area economically, it is socially and environmentally unsustainable.
Tradition and culture has been eroded away because many young people now go down the mountains into urban areas in search of jobs. Even though the tourist industry has encouraged many young farmers to diversify out of rural and primary activities, many people still leave. Aside from that, the tourist industry brings with it unwanted pollution and litter and also causes footpath erosion. The tourist industry is also a potential hazard to the mountains and villages because the winter sports activities taking place there may cause avalanches.
In the tundra or arctic regions, development has not been sustainable either, also both environmentally and socially. Gold, and particularly oil exploration and exploitation have scarred the fragile landscape. In 1968, the Trans-Alaskan pipeline was built from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Not only were there leakage problems of the oil pipeline associated with earthquakes and permafrost, but it also interfered with the migration of caribou on land and salmon in the rivers.
Aside from that, in the 1989, there was the problem of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which polluted the ocean and killed hundreds of birds and marine wildlife. Oil exploration and the invasion of the Europeans into Inuit territory were also socially unsustainable. The traditional way of life was lost as many Inuits were forced to live the ‘white’ way and many Inuit children were taken from their parents and educated in missionary schools. Their traditional ways of hunting were also lost due to severe regulations on gun control and the introduction of currency into their simple economy.
The latter was also the cause of excessive and unsustainable sealing and hunting in the tundra and arctic lands. Although the areas around the Southern Ocean have not been developed, vast quantities of natural fish, seal and whale resources have been taken out. On South Orkney Island, seals were completely depleted by 1800. Whaling began in the 1840s but was unsustainable as well, and ended in 1965 because stocks were exhausted. Fish stocks such as cod and krill have also become severely depleted in recent years.
Although institutes such as the International Whaling Convention, the Marine Resources Institute and the CCAMLR were set up, illegal fishing and whaling have led to the depletion of natural resources. In Grytviken and Stromness, abandoned buildings have become an eyesore because they were not cleared away. Attempts at developing Antarctica have been made, mainly in the form of tourism. This is the only cold environment development that can be said to be sustainable.
Strict IAATO guidelines on tourist behaviour, controlled numbers of tourists and the harsh climate of Antarctica have made the area difficult to develop. Scientific and research stations, although few, have contributed to waste generated in the area, along with footpath erosion. Most of the waste is shipped to the UK for processing, but what remains cannot decompose easily in the cold climate. Due to efforts of the Antarctic Treaty ratified in 1991 and much pressure from the environmental groups however, the Antarctic region has largely remained untouched.
Where development takes place, it cannot be said to be sustainable, because changes have to be made to the area to accommodate people and people contribute to environmental degradation at the very least, even if great care is taken not to disturb or disrupt natural environments. The development of cold environments is mainly unsustainable, although tourism in Antarctica seems to be otherwise. Who knows, however, whether it will remain sustainable in the future because of increased tourism, or because of better technology to fuel mass tourism.