Monday, October 28, 2013

Leave Antarctica Alone

For the past few years, Antarctic scientists have been focused on finding life beneath the ice shelves. Once thought to be too extreme to host any life, scientists now believe there could be previously unknown species that have lived there for millions of years undisturbed.

I take the unpopular opinion that we should leave this alone. There are few places on earth that have been left undisturbed. Where humans go, eventually tourism and pollution follow. Antarctica is already polluted by cruise ships. Tour companies are preparing to bring thousands to Hang Song Doong.

Lake Vostok is another good example of why we should not disturb this pristine location. After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists broke through the ice to sample the water of the previously undisturbed prehistoric lake. What they found was astounding: 3,500 new species including the possibility of highly complex aquatic creatures. Even more astounding has been the reaction to this discovery. Many scientific peers believe a great majority of these discoveries are not new species but rather due to contamination of the outside world. In other words, we disturbed an ancient lake only to contaminate it.

So please, leave us this one last place. Leave the subglacial lake alone. Stop drilling. We don't need to know everything and we don't need to know what tiny life might possibly exist below the layers of ice. Just let it be.

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