Our world has come to an unprecedented pause in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Doctors call it a “novel” coronavirus, which means that it is new to our population and none of us has immunity to it.
The cost in human lives and the widespread havoc it wreaks is consuming our news cycle. But what many of us don’t realize is that our world has a ticking time bomb of pathogens, all of which would be “novel” to us, if released. For the sake of our collective future, we must keep them under the ice.
The Arctic Ocean does not only keep our planet cool through the albedo effect when its white ice reflects the sun’s heat away from the planet. It keeps the local permafrost, with its payload of pathogens, frozen. Within the ice and permafrost of the Arctic region are bacteria and viruses that have been kept dormant for millennia. But the ice is melting. Sections of the Arctic Ocean are now 4C too hot. Up to 95% of the summer ice is gone. And scientists have proven that frozen Arctic viruses as old as 30,000 years can be reactivated.
The warning shot was fired in 2016 when an anthrax outbreak was traced to the frozen carcass of a reindeer that died over 75 years ago and thawed in the summer heat. It tore through a herd of 2000 reindeer, took the life of a 12-year-old-boy, and required the hospitalization of dozens of others. If this trend continues, infections from time immemorial could re-emerge to devastate a world no longer immune.
MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, is a medical mask that keeps everyone around the globe safe from these frozen pathogens. However, today, the Arctic Ocean is under unprecedented threat from melting and from exploitation that breaks up the ice and inhibits its regrowth: shipping, commercial fishing, oil exploration, and military activity. To protect our global immunity, we must put the Arctic Ocean in quarantine now. We are seeing today the deadly consequences of delay in clamping down to prevent disease.
MAPS declares the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle an international peace park free from all forms of exploitation. Not only does it protect our planet’s air conditioner. Not only does it create a secure habitat for vulnerable species in a time that scientists say we must protect half the planet in order to prevent mass extinction. Not only does it safeguard 17 kinds of whales, who play an essential role in the ocean providing us half the oxygen we breathe. MAPS is urgently needed if we want to keep pandemics from becoming the new normal.
Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd says, “The Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary must continue to hold the massive reserves of restless methane within its quiet lonely bosom where sleeping viruses remain safely captive. From the dark boreal forests to the groaning of the shifting floes, there is the constant whispering reminder that this stark and desolate world is the key to our survival.”
The all-volunteer international charity Parvati Foundation originated MAPS and is in dialogue with all nations’ leaders to sign the MAPS Treaty immediately. This Treaty updates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to ensure the Arctic Ocean is given the protection our whole world needs now more than ever. Two nations have already signed.
Parvati Foundation’s founder and CEO, the award-winning Canadian musician and author Parvati, says, “COVID-19 is an urgent reminder of the ways we are all interconnected. What each of us does affects everyone else. We must heed the wake-up call to protect our collective future with MAPS now.”