Secretary Pompeo, The Only Opportunity in the Arctic Ocean Is to Safeguard it Now.

If US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo understood that exploiting the Arctic Ocean is destroying the life support system of the world he lives in, he would not be talking about “opportunities for trade” there. Instead, he would be working around the clock to stop a threat to Americans and to all life on Earth, that is escalating at a rate of 14,000 tons per second. That’s how fast Arctic ice is melting into the ocean, in what is the world’s largest underreported humanitarian and ecological crisis.

The Arctic Ocean is our planet’s air conditioner. It regulates the global weather patterns that grow the food and resources we all depend on. But today, this pivotal ecosystem is under threat like never before, creating a ripple effect of suffering for everyone and everything worldwide.

Since 2017, over 21,000 scientists from 184 countries have signed an open letter warning humanity that “soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” Despite these clear, even ominous warnings, many are invested in denial of the urgent problem we face and the critical importance of the Arctic Ocean for our survival. They are treating the newly open Arctic waters like open season—seeking short-term profit for a few rather than the long term good of all. This is a deadly error.

At a time when the Arctic Ocean is already weakened and vulnerable, exploitative interests (oil and gas, shipping and fishing, deep sea mining) break up remaining ice and hinder its ability to regenerate. This is as insane as using your air conditioner as a barbecue. Just as a factory dumping toxins into a river must answer to those far downstream who suffer the effects, so the US government must recognize that all nations and all life on the planet are effectively downstream from the Arctic Ocean.

Fortunately, an immediate and effective response to this global emergency already exists: MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. MAPS prohibits all exploitation—commercial, industrial and military—of the Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle, creating the largest protected area in history. The all-volunteer non-profit organization developed the MAPS Treaty as an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It has been translated into all six official languages of the UN, distributed to all 193 member states, and brought every year to UN Climate Conferences since 2015 by volunteers at their own expense. It enters into force with the signatures of 99 UN member nations.

Ironically, on the other side of the world, small island nation leaders are gathering next week with the understanding of how essential the Arctic Ocean is to all life on Earth. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa, and Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands, have already signed the MAPS Treaty. At the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Conference in Fiji on May 13 and 14, volunteer General Counsel Vandana Erin Ryder will speak with heads of government to secure more signatures.

“If Americans knew what a clear and present danger they were facing with the compromised Arctic Ocean, and that there is an immediate and effective response, they would call for change,” says Founder and CEO Parvati. “Secretary Pompeo and President Trump owe it to Americans and to all life to correct their course immediately.”