Geopolitics of Antarctica

A-level section teachers' notes

Sustainability

This section enables students to make links across the resources on this website and consider the future of the continent. Students are encouraged to consider values of global citizenship, environmental sustainability and resource management. Students are provided with opportunities to think about the the future of Antarctica in terms of its Treaty and other legislation and whether a growth in resource exploitation should be increased/permitted.

Within this topic students will be able to:

  • consider differing viewpoints including students' own about resource exploitation and the future of Antarctica
  • learn up to date information about topical issues concerning Antarctica and resource exploitation/management
  • interpret, handle and manipulate data (GIS and excel)
  • make moral/ethical judgements about the future of Antarctica
  • learn appropriate geographical vocabulary
  • confidently use a variety of on-line resources including media, video and photography

5.1 Impacts of climate change

This topic links directly with the climate section. The introduction provides a broad overview a about climate change and its impacts on the Antarctic environment. There are also opportunities to learn about the latest research developments on climate change at the British Antarctic Survey.

Warm up

Students can play a video clip from the British Antarctic Survey to learn some of the key impacts on Antarctica. Students are able to see footage of the changes in the Antarctic environment. While the clip is playing students answer some simple questions enabling them to work on their listening skills.

Answers:

a) Which part of Antarctica has witnessed the largest changes in temperature? Antarctic Peninsula.

b) What temperature increase has been measured in this areas of Antarctica? 3°C

c) What changes has this temperature increase caused to the environment? break up of ice shelves, changes in coastlines, increased snow melt, retreat of glaciers

Cold Facts

Students are able to learn more specific details about different impacts on the Antarctic environment and the therefore the global environment including: ice, wildlife and sea level change. This encourages students to think of the issue of climate change on a variety of scales. Students are provided with a basic overview of the topics with opportunities to learn more by following the links. Students are able to retrieve information from a variety of resources including video, photographs and media.

Student activities

This section is divided into 4 stand alone parts. These can be dipped in and out of, divided between groups or worked through in their entirety. They are designed to give students a good understanding of a variety of issues concerning the impacts of climate change on Antarctica and its impacts worldwide. Students can also finish by considering their impact on the environment. This work links back to the climate section and the eco-tourism activities on carbon emissions.

Students gain skills by interpreting and drawing conclusions from GIS data and consider the advantages of using this method of data presentation, brainstorming and thinking about the issue of climate change on a variety of scales. There are lots of links which help to stretch more able pupils.

5.2 Mineral resources

This section allows students to consider mineral exploitation in Antarctica. Currently mineral exploitation is banned until 2041 when it is up again for review under the Antarctic Treaty. Students gain a general overview in the introductory information and consider the future of mineral exploitation on the continent should economic, environmental and political conditions change. This debate in the future may well be one concerning economic verses environmental arguments. This is an important debate as energy and mineral resources worldwide are diminishing and the environmental consequences of exploitation elsewhere have been well documented. This provides a discussion on the potential conflicting opinions on resource exploitation.

Warm up

Students consider the range of mineral wealth in Antarctica and their uses for humans. Students gain an appreciation that minerals (and therefore what we depend on minerals for) are finite.

Cold Facts

Students learn about the regulation concerning mineral exploitation in Antarctica under the Antarctic Treaty including the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA) and the Madrid Protocol on the Environment. This work can be linked with the Antarctic Treaty resources on this website. Students gain understanding about how Antarctica is governed internationally where all players have a say and how global citizenship and global governance have an important role in the future of Antarctica.

Student activities

This role play activity is designed for students to consider the economic, environmental and political issues surrounding the exploitation of minerals on Antarctica. Students are able to engage with differing/conflicting opinions about resource exploitation and environmental protection/degradation. Issues of conservation, stewardship, global governance and the processes involved in decision making are considered.

Students are assigned roles from the downloadable debate role cards and are encouraged to research relevant information using the links thoroughly. Students may prefer to work in groups to prepare the roles and for less able students more direction with the relevant links may be required. If conducting a debate is inappropriate, students could prepare a speech in role instead.

This work uses skills of research and interpretation of relevant information, group work, producing a one sided viewpoint but to be aware of other views and the wider context. The debate can encourage all students to participate if well chaired and discussion questions are provided to help guide the debate.

When completed, a summary discussion may be useful to summarise relevant issues/debates and to answer the debate question. What do students believe personally about mining in Antarctica and why?

5.3 Overfishing

This section aims to provide a good overview of the exploitation of fish within the Southern Ocean with up to date information and links to gain a more in depth information. This links with the work of CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) under the Antarctic Treaty which was set up to preserve and monitor the resource exploitation of the Southern Ocean. Students also gain an understanding of the current challenges in protecting such a large expanse of water in terms of the incidence of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Warm up

Students are introduced to the historical context, conservation and the fishing of krill. Students are given opportunities to learn more by following the links. Students/teachers may also wish to link back to other sections of this website e.g. Antarctic Treaty, Conservation (case study on the albatross) and Tourism (alien species) to gain relevant context and broaden understanding of the issues.

Cold Facts

Students can learn about the management approaches and conservation measures in preserving and monitoring the Southern Ocean within the Convention Area. These issues provide students with current environmental debates and show the interaction between humans and the environment as well as the problems associated with trying to enforce regulations. The problem with illegal fishing highlights the problem associated with economics verses environment.

Student Activities

This is designed to enable students to practice skills of data handling, analysis and manipulation. Students are able to take an enquiry approach by identifying an appropriate hypothesis and making decisions on appropriate data presentation.

1. Students open illegal fishing toothfish data for the period 1996-2008. This data is the basis for this short investigation.

2. Having considered the data, students identify a suitable hypothesis and null hypothesis to perform a statistical test.

A suggestion could be:

Hypothesis suggestion: There is a negative correlation between IUU caught toothfish quantities and time.

Null hypothesis suggestion: There is no relationship between IUU caught toothfish quantities and time.

3. Students then decide on an appropriate graph to display this data. Mid-range candidates may display a bar graph which is acceptable however, a line graph would be more appropriate for continuous data.

4. Students then conduct a statistical analysis of the data in order to prove/disprove the hypothesis. This analysis is broken into three parts: a scatter graph, a line of best fit and a Pearson's Chi-test. This work is particularly appropriate to stretch higher candidates. This may also be relevant in the teaching of statistical analysis prior to engaging in fieldwork and to highlight the importance of ICT within fieldwork and Geography more widely. The test could also be done using Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient on paper. The help sheet is provided if needed.

Having completed the Pearson's Chi-test using excel, students should have produced an answer of:

-0.73. By checking this with a critical values table, indicates a strong negative correlation.

Tip: Correlation varies between -1 (perfect negative correlation) and 1 (perfect positive correlation), where 0 (or close to 0) indicates no correlation at all.

5-6. Students may be able to deduct that reasons for this negative correlation (i.e. that IUU catches of toothfish have declined over time) may be due to conservation measures. However, this cannot be ascertained for certain as there may be other reasons for this decline such as global warming, changes in legislation elsewhere or environmental degradation.

7. Students are asked why it is effective to use this technique in order to highlight the value of modern ICT methods in Geography. This technique allows complicated maths calculations of standard deviation to be done very quickly. It also creates meaningful values that are easier to use.

5.4 Future of Antarctica

This last topic aims to consolidate and make links with many of the topics/issues/debates previously considered in this module. The materials here bring together issues already discussed including tourism, mineral exploitation and overfishing. The exploitation of Antarctica's fauna by bioprospecting is also introduced. The introduction sets the scene by asking the question whether the treaty and its linked resolutions/agreements/conventions should be upheld in their current form or modified in the light of all these conflicting demands.

Warm up

This activity provides a starting point encouraging discussion on the future of Antarctica. Why does it matter if Antarctica was developed like other regions of the world? This raises issues of global citizenship and stewardship as well as moral judgements about the sustainability of exploitation of natural resources for future generations.

Cold facts

Students can recap (or learn for the first time) issues considered in other areas of the website including the impacts of tourists, mining and fishing. There are links provided for students to gain more depth if needed. Bioprospecting is also considered including the regulations and the Antarctic Treaty, why the continent is of interest and what current work is being done. At the end of this section students are encouraged to consider whether they think Antarctica should be exploited in the future or maintained as it is. This section is designed to bring together all the different activities that threaten the sustainability of Antarctica to enable a holistic discussion.

Student Activities

1. Students can listen to two conflicting opinions for the future of Antarctica and fill in the downloadable chart. This sheet helps to consolidate opposing views on the future of Antarctica. The views pull together many of the different conflicts and potential uses for the continent. Considering the economic verses the environment, stewardship, conservation and global governance. This sheet provides students with an opportunity to formulate their own opinions about the future of Antarctica.

2. Students plan and write an essay style question. Students may wish to use the downloadable plan to help them. This provides an opportunity to bring together many of the topics in this module including science, conservation, resource management, future exploitation and the Antarctic Treaty.

3. Students can peer mark the essay using a mark scheme. This provides an opportunity for students to become familiar with the way essays are marked by exam boards and to critically assess their peers in order to improve their own writing style.

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