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Northwest Passage
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Arctic Meltdown Opening New Shipping Channels

By James Donahue

It has been well known that the northern tip of our planet is an ocean of ice. The great navies of both the United States and Russia have explored this ocean with nuclear submarines capable of remaining underwater for long periods of time. And sailors have long dreamed of someday finding a way through the fabled "Northwest Passage" over North America as a shorter way of shipping goods from Atlantic to Pacific ports.

As the Arctic ice has gone into meltdown from the heating of our planet, icebreakers have actually been finding open waterways proving that the Northwest Passage may soon be a reality. This has obviously been exciting shipping companies interested in cutting costs of going the long way via the Panama Canal.

This summer the Chinese surprised the world when it brought the giant icebreaker Xue Long through the East Siberian Sea into the Barents Sea, traveling from China over the top of Russia to Skarfabakki, Iceland. The Xue Long thus became the first Chinese ship to traverse this northern sea route and open another Arctic passage between Asia and Europe.

Taking this route means an even bigger savings in shipping costs since the regular way to travel by sea from China to Europe is south via the Malacca Strait, around Sri Lanka, then around India and north through the Suez Canal.

While this may be welcome news for the world shipping companies caught between rising fuel costs of operating their ships, and the growing demand for moving manufactured goods generated by world trade agreements, the loss of all that ice in the Arctic regions is not good news for the world.

It is just more proof that global warming, or climate change, brought on by captured greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, is a real threat. As the world heats, the threat to all life on the planet grows.

Those ships traveling the northern routes are contributing to the problem. They are burning carbon-based fossil fuels, many are tankers laden with crude oil bound for nations that want the oil to fuel their automobiles, trucks, trains, and aircraft, with in turn spew even more carbon dioxide into the already toxic sky.

The ships also are carrying newly manufactured cars, computers, cell phones, televisions and other materialistic commodities to feed a wasteful, capitalistic, throw-away society that is using up the world’s last resources at an alarming rate.

So why does anyone rejoice at the news that the Northwest Passage and the northern sea route over Siberia are now opening to ships? We should all be alarmed by this news and doing something about it.