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What are the opportunities and constraints of living in and exploiting, cold environments?

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Introduction

What are the opportunities and constraints of living in and exploiting, cold environments? Cold environments provide only minimal opportunities for its inhabitants, offering them little else other than the ability to live sustainably off the land through the herding of Caribou/Reindeer. Now, even this is being threatened as the modern world brings new constraints to cold environments, such as the melting of sea ice destroying hunting grounds and the extraction of oil at places like Tar Sands destroying the lands of indigenous people. As well as this, in Greenland the inability of young people to live a comfortable and interesting life has led to Greenland having the highest suicide rate in the world. On the other hand, cold environments provide plenty of opportunities for exploitation, chiefly due to their vast oil, gas and metal reserves and tourism opportunities like ecotourism at the poles or skiing in the Alps. However, there are also constraints on the level at which cold environments can be exploited, due to agreements about conserving the natural environment, which is already melting. In the Arctic, the environment provides the indigenous people with almost everything they need to survive. For example, in Siberia the Nenets use the Reindeer to survive. Reindeers are used for transport, their furs are used for shelter and clothing and all of their edible meat is either eaten or sold. ...read more.

Middle

For example, global warming has caused constraints on the lives of the Qanaq people in Greenland, as the sea ice is retreating so they have to spend more money on boat fuel to go out to sea to hunt whales. In the Alps, global warming could potentially mean a large decline of the number of viable ski resorts to (it is estimated that in 20 years all Alpine ski resorts below 10,50m will have to close due to lack of snow (some resorts are already lacking in snow in the early season as shown in figure 1) attract visitors, which would cause tourist revenue to fall sharply. It is clear then, that the fact that cold environments are melting causes constraints on the local people. In Greenland, the main constraint on the local people is that the cold, unforgiving and empty environment provides young people with nothing to do. This lack of entertainment, coupled along with the rise of television and internet in Greenland, so young people know what they?re missing out on, has led to alcoholism and suicide. Shockingly, recent reports have shown that Greenland?s teenagers are so sick of their boring lives (as compared to the unreachable lives they see on television) that 1 in 5 15-17 year olds in Greenland have attempted suicide. The final constraint to living in a cold environment is that so much of the land is covered in permafrost, which, if built on, ...read more.

Conclusion

As well as part of Alaska being protected against oil companies, the whole of Antarctica is protected against almost any potential activities (such as the use of Antarctica as a weapons testing site) through agreements like the 1991 Madrid Protocol, which declared that Antarctica only be used as ?a nature reserve, devote to peace and science.? The fact that this cold environment is so fragile, but still so untouched, has meant that environmentalists have managed to successfully get these measures through to keep it protected. Finally, exploitation of any non-renewable resources in cold environments is always going to be constrained by the fact that one day the resources will run out, and at the current, unsustainable rate of extraction of oil in Alaska, oil is set to have depleted in the state in the next 10 years. In conclusion, cold environments can provide a sustainable livelihood for some people (i.e. the Nenets) at the moment, although this ability to support indigenous people is being threatened by the intrusion of energy companies, as shown by the destruction of Gwich?in land to make way for tar sands. Global warming also reduces the sustainability of activities like hunting and skiing due to ice and snow melt. Finally, it seems that exploitation of resources is constrained chiefly through environmental agreements, like the ones which protect the ANWR and the Antarctic. ...read more.

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