Dec 052007

Frightening piece by Owen Bowcott in today’s Guardian about the growing international race to snap up ownership rights to vast tracts of seabed in order to exploit its mineral, oil and gas deposits. Having ruined much of the world’s land, we now find ourselves in a dash to grab what lies beneath the surface, with all the environmental devastation that could entail. It’s reminiscent of how the European Union, having exhausted all its fishing resources through years of reckless practice, then turned to West Africa, snapping up the fishing rights of the world’s poorest people and depriving them of their main source of protein. Or how having pillaged supplies of fish that had provided for humanity for centuries, mankind turned to deep water species like the orange roughy, scooping them up before they had even had a chance to reproduce. Illegal fishing pushed this species, which can live to 100 years old, to the brink of destruction. This determination to drain every last drop of life from the earth continues to baffle and alarm in equal measure. I’ll be watching the seabed rights issue with interest, not least because it has all the ingredients campaigners dream of – beautiful nature, multinational corporations, governments, short-termism, and potential profit at the expense of developing nations. It’s a lethal cocktail all round.

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