120 United in Peace? Research at the End of the World

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By Chris Marquardt. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

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Antarctica is a very special place in many ways. The sheer size of its ice cover, the astonishing wilderness, the inaccessibility, being Earth's only continent without a native human population - it seems like the last vastly untamed place on earth. It is because of that that the 7th continent turned into an Eldorado for scientists despite its inhospitality. The Antarctic Treaty has put all territorial claims on hold and devotes the continent to Science and Peace since 1959 and besides the 12 original signees a total of 54 countries operate seasonal research stations in Antarctica.

However, all claiming states operate a number of research stations to underline their claim, some of them even tried to [establish permanent civil settlements]((https://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/can_you_live_in_antarctica.php#:~:text=There%20are%20two%20places%20in,tip%20of%20the%20Antarctic%20Peninsula) and send pregnant woman to give birth to "native Antarcticans" to support such claims.

Aiming for the lowest possible “disturbance footprint” on the planet the research facilities are largely planned as temporary structures. In 2018 the Australian government considered a new infrastructure project in the area that is claimed as Australian Antarctic Territory. While the project remained largely undiscovered in the public eye in past years, resistance is now forming in the group that is supposed to benefit most from the project. Scientists are largely critical of the project, as it represents a significant interference with the extremely fragile balance of the continent and its ecosystems and could create a real bad precent in terms of the scale of investment and the impact on the environment but certainly would turn Australias footprint in Antarctica to the biggest of any nation. Beyond environmental questions, the project’s long term and more troubling impact may be the altering of the political conditions on the frozen continent.

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