Scramble for the Arctic to Dominate Environmental Agenda
2012 saw the climate-change-fueled dash for the Arctic’s riches dominate the environmental agenda.
The debate over the high north, the annual nightmare of forest fires and continuing battles between activists and developers over roads, mines and the Sochi Olympics are only likely to intensify next year.
Greenpeace activists stormed Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Pechora Sea in the first of what will likely be many confrontations over the development of oil and gas on the Arctic shelf.
In less remote locales, the long battle over the Khimki forest dragged into a sixth year, with activists persuading the European Parliament to hold hearings on Vinci’s involvement and President Vladimir Putin revealing at his end-of-the-year news conference that the French construction company at one point had threatened to quit the project altogether.
New fights broke out across the country over construction projects. Plans to mine nickel deposits in the Voronezh region brought together an unlikely alliance of environmentalists, local residents and Cossacks.
Meanwhile, a vocal campaign by environmentalists and ecotourism entrepreneurs forced the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to call an emergency summit over a road across a planned national park in the Khibiny Mountains in the Murmansk region.
Campaigners continued to face harassment. Suren Gazaryan, of the North Caucasus Environmental Watch, will battle charges of threatening to kill a security guard at the gargantuan neoclassical construction on the Black Sea
coast that whistle-blower Sergei Kolesnikov called “Putin’s palace.”
Meanwhile, several anti-nickel campaigners in Voronezh have faced charges under draconian new laws regulating public protests.
Putin himself flew a bit too close to the sun in a stunt helping endangered cranes to migrate. The birds got lost, and the president was rumored to have hurt his back.
We cannot predict which animal Putin will endorse next year, though it is probably a safe bet it won’t be the Russian desman, the strange half-shrew, half-mole aquatic mammal the anti-nickel campaigners made their mascot.
Nor can we forecast the weather, industrial accidents or natural disasters that could spell environmental catastrophe in the coming year. But below is our best forecast for environmental issues in the coming year.