One of the iconic images of the disaster that is global warming is a sole polar bear adrift on a small piece of what was once a mighty iceberg. This is the fate of the Arctic ice cap, which has been melting at an alarming rate – some say it’s shrunk by three quarters in a mere thirty years.

But that’s not the only threat to th ese last unspoilt corners of the earth. Commercial interests are as big a threat and celebrities and environmental campaigners have joined forces to highlight the threat to the region and galvanize forces to unite in the interests of saving the environment.

At the recent Rio Earth Summit, environmentalists and government agencies from several countries tried their hardest to establish formal protection for the Arctic region. Not for the first time in history, profits and commercial interests won instead, with the US, Canada and Russia scuppering the planned reserve. All three countries have deep vested interests in the area. Scandinavian countries, including Norway and Denmark have also earmarked the area for further exploitation.

A high profile campaign with celebrity supporters including Robert Redford, Richard Branson, Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz has been launched to try to reverse the decision and raise awareness of saving the environment of the Arctic from oil drilling and over-fishing. Partners in the campaign include Greenpeace and various indigenous communities who are affected by the encroachment on the Arctic region.

More than 20% of the remaining natural gas and oil reserves lie here, according the US Geological Survey. It’s no surprise then that these great riches are deemed more important than the wildlife and peoples of the region. That’s before you factor in the effects of melting polar ice on sea levels, which affects people and climate throughout the world.

Protests have been underway for some time, targeting specific companies and raising awareness of saving the environment of the Arctic. The latest campaign includes an online petition and an opportunity for all sorts of people to get involved. Youth organizations like the Girl Guides have joined in by designing a ‘flag for the future’ to be planted in the Arctic along with the signatures of protesters worldwide.

As Paul McCartney put it: ‘It seems madness that we are willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find the last drops of oil when our best scientific minds are telling us we need to get off fossil fuels to give our children a future’. The Arctic is a focal point of the ecological crisis we, or as often our representatives in government are marching into. It can be stopped, if enough of us get behind it, and start thinking of the earth and our future instead of putting commercial interests first.

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