Geopolitics of Antarctica

A-level section teachers' notes

Tourism

Within this unit students are able to:

  • explore the interactions between humans and the environment
  • examine ethical and moral issues in visiting Antarctica
  • improve ICT skills
  • use media and other web based resources with confidence
  • develop skills of interpretation and analysis of data and photographs
  • develop understanding of issues of sustainability
  • discover links between the local and the global
  • construct graphs, interpret graphs and draw conclusions

6.1 Destination Antarctica

Warm up:

Students learn an overview of the highlights that Antarctica has to offer the tourist including some specific details of wildlife, landscape historical buildings and adventure activities. Part of the Attraction to Antarctica is the variety of activities that would appeal to different types of people with different interests.

Cold facts:

Students have the opportunity to explore different trips that are available and use their decision making skills to consider whether they would like to visit Antarctica. The trips available show that Antarctica holidays can meet all interests from wildlife or historical enthusiasts to those interested in polar landscapes or those who would like to be challenged by adventurous activities.

The increase in tourist numbers to Antarctica has been possible due to the improved accessibility to Antarctica itself and reduction in the cost of airfares. Tourists also want to visit Antarctica for a range of factors including: its uniqueness, a place that other people haven't visited, the ease of booking holidays with the advent of the internet, the availability of specialist clothing and equipment. This has also become possible due to changes in lifestyle such as longer paid holidays, flexible working hours and greater disposable income. Annual leave has been rising since the 1960s with statutory holidays and holiday pay coming into force in 1989. This is only the minimum holiday entitlement and in reality workers may receive a great deal more.

Activities:

1. Students are able to explore these factors highlighting changes in values/attitudes, accessibility and lifestyle.

2. Students are able to analyse the trend in tourist numbers visiting Antarctica. Students are able to link the increase in tourist numbers with the changes in attitudes, accessibility and lifestyle.

6.2 Impacts and management:

Tourists visit Antarctica mainly during the warmer austral summer months of November to March and visit the same locations intensifying the human impacts on Antarctica.

Warm up:

Students interpret and analyse picture information by using the downloadable sheet.

Extra information on pictures:

Picture 1:
Tourists may come too close to penguins (or other animals) on Antarctica which may affect their breeding and/or feeding habits. Studies by the British Antarctic Survey have shown that there is minimal disturbance to penguins by tourists at present although this could change with increases in tourist numbers.

Picture 2:
Trampling on fragile vegetation. Antarctica has a limited variety of flora. Antarctica has 200 species of lichens and over 50 species of mosses and liverworts, fungi and over 700 species of algae. There are two flowering plants. Without education prior to landing on Antarctica, tourists could inadvertently damage fragile mosses and lichens growing on exposed rocks, impacting on fragile habitats.

Picture 3:
Introduction of alien species. This is a dandelion (a flowering plant) and a pollinating insect in south Georgia. Both are alien to sub - Antarctica and the areas in the sub-Antarctic could act as a spring - board for alien species to come into Antarctica. Tourists need to carefully clean foot ware to ensure spores and seeds are not introduced from outside Antarctica.

Picture 4:
Ships polluting the environment with fuel and the risk of sinking poses threats from shipwrecks and oil spills on the marine environment and animals impacting the whole Antarctic ecosystem. Between December 2008 and April 2009 there were 2 rescue efforts for stranded ships in Antarctic waters. With increasing numbers of tourists, the possibility of ship disasters (e.g. MS Explorer which sunk in 2007) and the increased quantity of fuel used from tourist ships could impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the future.

Cold Facts:

The activity in this section may be treated as a starter, you may get students to prepare the reading in advance or you may choose to spend a larger section of time on this.

In reality Antarctica is not a 'pristine' environment. There have been plenty of impacts by humans in the past. Commercial whalers and sealers decimated populations of these species, scientists in the past, left piles of rubbish, burnt it or threw it into the sea. The remains of these impacts still exist. Tourists however, are very well educated on the Antarctic ships about ways of behaving in Antarctica to ensure that the environmental impacts of visits today are reduced. However, although recent studies have shown that tourism is currently sustainable at present levels, these impacts remain a real threat in the future, particularly if numbers of visitors continue to increase.

As an introduction to one of the impacts, students consider the impacts that seed and spore introduction from abroad could have on the future of Antarctic, why this is an important impact and how the management of tourists to prevent this is crucial. This task enables students to explore on-line media resources and provides an opportunity to discuss the impacts of human interaction with the fragile Antarctic environment.

Student Activities:

1. Students are provided with an opportunity to explore environmental issues produced by humans interacting with the environment of Antarctica. Students use decision making and problem solving skills to consider the impacts of tourists on the environment and devise guidelines to minimise these impacts. Students may need to touch upon issues of citizenship and ethical and moral values. This task may be conducted individually, in groups or as a class.

An understanding of the Madrid Protocol on the Environment and the IAATO helps to give global governance context to these issues of sustainable use of the Antarctic environment by tourists. Tourists need to act as 'global citizens' when venturing to Antarctica and take responsibility for their actions which could affect the future of the continent.

2 and 3. Students have an opportunity to explore current research findings and media reports concerning the impacts of tourists on the Antarctic environment. This task enables students to express different viewpoints as well as their own in considering the issues of sustainability. Students are able to confidently interact with different website resources and extract information to help form their own opinions. For less able students you may wish to select fewer resources for students to consider and perhaps provide an opportunity for students to discuss the material prior to planning/writing.

6.3 Eco-tourism

Although designed specifically for work on Antarctica, this topic would also fit well with other modules on tourism as a possible stand alone case study. This material allows students to consider the "buzz words" within the tourist industry, their motives and critically evaluate whether eco-tourism is really conducted within Antarctica.

Warm up

The characteristics highlighted are not applicable to Antarctica because they are concerned with indigenous people.

  • Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior
  • Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
  • Support for local conservation efforts
  • Sustainable benefits to local communities
  • Local participation in decision-making
  • Educational components for both the traveller and local communities

You may also like to explore students' own experiences of eco-tourism or eco tourist holidays.

Cold Facts

This section provides an introduction to eco-tourism in Antarctica and how tourists have to behave responsibly in order to use Antarctica sustainably. Students should become familiar with the key words associated with eco-tourism.

Student Activities

1. This task provides students with an opportunity to critically evaluate evidence in order to make a judgement. This task can also provide discussion opportunities for citizenship issues concerning their own purchases as consumers in the future. To extend this activity you may also wish to add other tour operators.

2. Some may consider the idea of an "eco" trip to Antarctica completely impossible due to the nature of the journey. This task enables students to use web-based ICT resources to calculate what carbon footprint a trip to Antarctica would produce. Stress that students will only be calculating their carbon footprint in terms of their journey only and this does not include the carbon that would likely be produced by their holiday including food and drink transportation, waste disposal and transportation, energy produced e.g. lighting, heat and cooking.

a) Using the carbon calculator:

Go to the website: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
Click on 'flights'
Select 'return trip'
From: London Heathrow
To:USH:Ushuaia Islas Malvinas, Argentina
Economy class.
Answer: 2.35 tonnes

Using the emissions calculator:

Go to the Sustainable Shipping website: http://www.sustainableshipping.com
On the right hand side is the emissions calculator.
Fuel type: diesel
Volume: 140mt
click on 'calculate'

This should give you 421 mt of CO2 produced. This is the total for the whole ship. There are 72 people on board.

Ship CO2: 421/72 = 5.85 mt

Total: 5.85+2.35 = 8.2mt of CO2

b) This additional task allows students to gain some context for the amount of CO2 produced during a trip to Antarctica. 8.2mt probably doesn't mean much to many people but by comparing it to other trips students might take, enables them to realise the huge quantity of carbon produced in only the journey. This may result in ethical and moral discussions about taking a trip to Antarctica. Just because you can afford it and there are trips that now make it possible - should you go? These issues link into concerns over carbon emissions and their link to global warming.

To calculate the 8 mile bus journey (4 mile return trip) you may wish to try an 800 mile journey by bus and then divide the answer by 100 to get a more accurate use of carbon for an 8 mile journey.

A graph of these results can be produced to really compare the carbon produced by a range of journeys. Students are able to develop their ICT skills using MS Excel and features to create an appropriate graph. Students can then deduct conclusions about eco-tourism from the evidence.

Teachers section pages

 

 

British Antarctic SurveyRoyal Geographic SocietyForeign and Commonwealth OfficeBritish Antarctic Territory