Russia Claims North Pole, Endangers Wildlife | Science | Smithsonian

Russia Claims North Pole, Endangers Wildlife

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While there are polar bears and seals and whales around the North Pole, there's also oil. The oil is the reason Russian submarines recently planted their flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean, 14,000 feet below the North Pole, thus (disputably) securing the rights to any oil or natural gas resources. Not so, says Canada, who had previously claimed the North Pole as part of its nation. "You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory,' " Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told a Canadian television station. "This isn't the 15th century."  The Russian move is not only a bit presumptuous, it also might lead to increased industrialization that would be downright harmful to one of Russia's "natural treasures": beluga whales. Just 600 miles from the North Pole, belugas congregate around Russian-controlled Solovetsky Island. The area has been a traditional haven for the pearly white, dolphin-sized whales, but increased shipping and oil exploration is harming the animals, a Russian scientist recently said. In a world more and more powered by alternative forms of energy, the scientist questioned the logic of claiming petroleum deposits at the cost of nature: "Oil and gas will disappear," he told Reuters, "but nature, and these animals must stay."

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