December 1, 2009

Time to Ditch the Antarctic Treaty?

Brendan Borrell, New York Times

AP Photo

A DESOLATE island in a frozen sea brings the world’s nations together with a new type of agreement: one giving an international commission the right to govern a landmass through unanimous vote. The year was 1912; the subject was the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean. Thereafter, it and the surrounding archipelago were to belong to no nation, its natural resources open to all.

That agreement was no doubt on the minds of the drafters of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed to much fanfare 50 years ago Tuesday by 12 nations: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union and the United States.

The pact was a remarkable achievement considering the circumstances: it was the height of the cold...

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TAGGED: Arctic Circle