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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about...the recently ratified Madrid Protocol to protect Antarctica as a wilderness preserve and ban all mining and drilling on the continent for the next fifty years.


CURWOOD: Fifty years is a blink of an eye in the life of the planet, but it's a significant stretch for the 26 countries who signed up to protect Antarctica as a wilderness preserve. Known as the Madrid Protocol, the agreement went into effect recently when Japan ratified it. This protocol aims to protect one of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet, and also one of the biggest. Antarctica makes up 10% of the land mass on Earth and holds 70% of the world's freshwater reserves. The protocol bans all mining and drilling on the continent, which is believed to be rich with minerals and oil. Waste is another target. All scientific outposts in Antarctica must now clean up their trash.
Hundreds of thousands of barrels have already been shipped off the ice.
And the scientists aren't alone; 10,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this year, the most ever. Many arrive on cruise ships that will no longer be allowed to dump raw sewage into the southern ocean.
But the protocol doesn't just pick on the big offenders, it also bans dogs. Ever since explorers have brought them over to pull sleds, they've had a naughty habit of eating penguins. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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