Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Great Arctic Conflict - Media spin of Law of the Sea

In Betsy Baker's lastest blog post, #19 Conflict in the Arctic? The Tenacity of Media Spinshe highlights an important issue in current Law of the Sea operations: the media spin. I guess the idea that the US can peacefully map in the Arctic alongside Canadaian vessels and without causing a Russian military response is just too humdrum for the media. They need hype, they need drama, they need the threat of an international incident. 

Earlier in the year I was dismayed by an arcticle in Discover Magazine (January 2008 issue, page 22) that played up last year's Law of the Sea mapping expedition as a hurried response to the Russian's dropping their flag at the North Pole. They actually implied that the Healy was diverted off her current course to run up to the Arctic in a show of American force:

"Within days of the twin Mir descent, the U.S. Coast Guard had dispatched the icebreaker Healy north of Alaska to spend nearly a month mapping the Arctic Ocean's floor..."

Nevermind the fact that a quick Google search would have taken them to CCOM's Law of the Sea  webpage where not only can you see that we have been mapping up there since 2003, but also that the data is publicly available for download. Yes, even the Ruskies can download it (gasp!). I should also point out that in June of 1990, the US and Russia signed the U.S.-USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement, which will still hold even during EEZ extensions under Law of the Sea.

Sadly, Discover was only one in any number of magazines and newspapers to twist this story. This year, it seems, will be no different. The New York Times is another culprit, as evidenced by a recent article, "Arctic in Retreat" (September 8, 2008), the subject of Betsy's blog. The "disputes" and "conflicts" mentioned in these articles are simply nonexistent. Sure, countries are mapping the Arctic so they can submit their claims to the Law of the Sea Commission, but that is about as heated as gets right now. 

I am sure this is just the start. It will be interesting to see how the media continues to spin international mapping expeditions in the Arctic, especially as the ice continues to retreat and the Arctic itself becomes more accessible. 

1 comment:

  1. Just to let folks know, I have removed comments from this blog, as it was not my intent to start any political discussions on various country's activities in the Arctic. I sincerely hope that the authors of the comments take no offense, as my goal is to keep this blog mainly focused on science.