The Morality of Exploring the Unknown: Ethics of U.S. Involvement in the Arctic
Fravel, Anna V.
Douglas, William A.
THE MORALITY OF EXPLORING THE UNKNOWN: ETHICS OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN THE ARCTICANNA V. FRAVEL, B.S.MALS Mentor: Dr. William A. Douglas, Ph.D.ABSTRACTThe Arctic landscape is changing rapidly to a seascape. The great Arctic ice fields are melting and many scholars believe that in a short time mariners other than Roald Amundsen will be able to transit the Northwest Passage while oil and gas companies will have access to new untapped and unexplored sea floors to extract natural resources, which are believed to be a quarter of the world's estimated undiscovered oil and gas and massive deposits of valuable minerals. On the positive side, warmer temperatures and the melting ice accelerate access to valuable resources and transportation routes, previously unavailable for human exploitation. On the negative side, however, the potential for territorial disputes and environmental hazards in the region largely increases as the temperature rises.There are currently no clear-cut rules governing the Arctic region, which is strategically important and economically enticing to many different nations. This leads to an ethical question: What moral responsibilities does the United States have as a nation to lead the way in the Arctic region vis-à-vis other nations as well as the global environment?The United States has a moral obligation to the international community as well as the American people to create a robust Arctic policy to exploit the Artic natural resources while protecting the local environment. As a world power, the United States must use its leverage over other states and the established diplomatic process through the Arctic Council to negotiate future territorial disputes over resources and the ice-free navigation routes. The melting of the ice is shifting the Artic paradigm towards an urgent need for the United States to dedicate financial resources to its development and exploration. A stable and responsibly developed Artic region has the potential to turn into the next frontier for natural resource extraction and commercial shipping. The United States needs to implement the specific foreign policy recommendations presented in this thesis in order to build up its Arctic strategic footprint and establish a U.S. commercial and scientific stronghold in the region, while at the same time respecting the indigenous Arctic environment.
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