From their earliest regular contact with Antarctica at the beginning of the nineteenth century, humans have had a direct impact on the Antarctic environment. Sealers and whalers have hunted marine mammals, explorers and scientists have constructed stations around the continent, and tourists congregate at hotspots of human activity. Less directly, but much more widely, global anthropogenic phenomena such as climate change and ozone depletion also have had significant environmental implications in Antarctica. The quantitative measurement of the environmental impacts of such activities upon the Antarctic continent and its surrounding waters is crucial to responsible management, but so too is a qualitative understanding of the values that humans place upon Antarctic environments. Meeting Antarctica as a place of extractive labour entails a different set of values to meeting Antarctica as a tourist seeking pristine wilderness. And what of the vast majority of the globe’s population for whom Antarctica is encountered vicariously, through the representations created by others?
The Action Group will address a single fundamental question: How have perceptions of the Antarctic environment framed the structures through which the continent and its surrounding waters are valued and managed? Understanding this connection is crucial at the present moment. Scepticism about science seems to be rising around the world, but this must not blind either scholars or policy-makers to importance of values and perceptions within the human realm in addition to the essential data from natural scientific research. The aim is to produce a methodological foundation that can guide future research in the role of human values in Antarctic environmental policy-making. Perspectives from history, political science, philosophy and literature have much to contribute to understanding the human dimensions of environmental impact in the Antarctic, but the integration of questions posed by these disciplines into studies of the human dimension of environmental change in Antarctica still has much unrealized potential. We argue that understanding how historical and contemporary actors have linked the construction and management of the Antarctic environment is directly relevant to understanding both the nature and the efficacy of environmental management structures in the present.
SCAR OSC 2020