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Business Voice for the Environment
April 30, 2011
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Advocacy, Publications, and Events
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  issue
-The Convergence of Economic, Environmental and National Security
-DC Delegates Tackle NOP, Catch Limits, and Oil Spills
-Big Progress on Fishery Management and Energy
-Rocky Moutains meets with Rep. Coffman, Rep. Tipton, Rep. DeGette and TJ Deora
-What Happens to the Natural Resources When the Ice Melts?
Alex Wall and Trevor Winnier excited to join E2
-San Diego Chapter Welcomes Sarah Mueller
-Advocacy Area News from April and March TeleSalon (Recording)
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  L to R: National Geographic Award-winning photographer Camille Seaman, Jared Carney (Executive Director of Program Development, Milken Institute), Lisa Speer (Director of NRDC's International Oceans Program), Phil McGillivary (Science Liaison for Coast Guard PACAREA), and Jon Foster (E2 Northern California Chapter Director)
On March 30, over 150 E2 members and guests convened at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA for an evening EcoSalon, “The Future of the Arctic.” The event, hosted by Jon Foster (E2 Northern California Chapter Co-director) and Nicole Lederer (E2 Co-founder), focused on the economic and political challenges created by a rapidly changing Arctic environment; where ice once existed is now open sea, allowing easier access to resources, but consequently putting pressure on an already climate-stressed ecosystem. The four-speaker panel discussed with members the political, economic, and environmental ramifications of such change.

After a food and wine reception, attendees took their seats for an opening presentation by acclaimed polar photographer and 2011 TED Fellow, Camille Seaman. She gave a stunning visual tour of the Arctic, including film she took herself of an enormous iceberg cracking and rolling in the sea. While some in the audience had been to the Arctic, for most it was their first chance to see not only one of the most remote places on earth, but also the impact that climate change is having there.

Following Camille, NRDC’s International Oceans Program Director, Lisa Speer, set the stage for the subsequent discussion by detailing the extent of the environmental change and its impact on Arctic flora and fauna, the outlook for increasing human development in the Arctic such as resource extraction and shipping, and finally an overview of the current framework of laws governing such activities. Lisa’s work and NRDC’s Arctic Initiative aim to improve governance for and safeguards against the dangers of oil and gas drilling, fishing (specifically overfishing), and shipping in areas of ocean outside national jurisdiction – aka the “high seas.”

Picking up where Lisa left off, Jared Carney, Director of Program Development at the Milken Institute, gave a presentation on the economic and social drivers behind the expanded human activity in the Arctic, using Russia as a case study. Having just returned from Russia on business, Jared gave a summary of the forces that are resulting in expanded oil and gas development on the country’s Arctic coast. As Russia seeks to progress in social areas such as education and life expectancy, much of the money that pays for these advancements comes from oil and gas; the jobs and economic incentives offered by oil and natural gas in the Arctic regions of Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets together account for about 35% of the GDP of the Russian Federation. (Oil and gas production accounts for about 50% of Russian GDP and Arctic oil and gas extraction accounts for about 70% of that production. Moreover the Arctic accounts for more than 90% of Russian oil and gas reserves.) During the Q&A it became clear that it will be exceedingly difficult to slow Russian exploitation of these resources because Russia sees them as vital economic opportunities.

The final perspective of the evening was delivered by Dr. Phillip McGillivary, Science Liaison for the Coast Guard Pacific Area region, who treated the audience to a candid and animated look at the special challenges related to national security and military activities in the changing Arctic. Dr. McGillivary highlighted the difficult prospect of sending ships through unpredictable, ice-ridden waters as sea ice breaks apart north of Alaska. Atmospheric warming in the Arctic makes navigation particularly difficult because it snows now where it formerly did not and in such areas visibility around a ship can go to zero, increasing the risk of collisions with icebergs. Additionally, many Arctic waters remain uncharted.

Dr. McGillivary also discussed the political friction surrounding attempts to secure and use the arctic’s natural resources. For example, although the Chinese have no Arctic Ocean coastline, they nevertheless claim sovereignty over that ocean in proportion to the fraction of the world population that is Chinese. Furthermore, they have a modern icebreaker which they once managed to sail though U.S. waters in the Barents Strait into the Arctic ocean to map the seabed off the northern coast of Alaska. The Chinese interests are also exhibited by their support of the U.S. claim that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway. The Canadians claim these are national waters. (Both positions are credible under international law.) The U.S. sails through these waters without incident by informing the Canadian authorities before each trip, which is not to be confused, at least in our minds, with asking permission. The Chinese have as yet never ventured so far.

E2 member Jennifer Urdan commented that the event was a rare opportunity to get exposed to so many different angles of an issue during the same event, and that it made the program much more interesting as a result. In fact, it was through E2 members that several of our evening’s speakers were identified and confirmed, and as we continue to combine complementary perspectives to our programming, we welcome and appreciate the suggestions and contributions of E2 members!

This event also received press coverage through ChinaDialogue, a group that aims to solve environmental problems by creating a dialogue between the US and China.

E2 would like to thank Google, especially employees Amy Luers and Jenifer Foulkes, for graciously hosting this event. E2 Executive Director Judy Albert and E2 Northern California Co-director Tony Bernhardt were instrumental in the planning of the program, as well.

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