The year was 1776, and the Industrial Revolution was about to begin. If we can return to the eighteenth century, we can warn everyone about the dangers of uncontrolled environmental exploitation. Today, we know all too well the risks of mining, haunted by images of barren landscapes, flattened mountain peaks, polluted rivers and harmful labor practices. If we knew then what we know now, would we do better? Unfortunately this is a moot question, but today we may actually have a choice.
Rather than accepting the risk of environmental catastrophe, we have the opportunity to take a precautionary approach that calls on corporations and governments alike to fully assess all potential risks of an emerging industry.
Nowhere is there a need for more precaution than in the deep sea. In one of the most mysterious and sensitive parts of the planet, business interests are actively working to launch a new industry with unprecedented risks: deep-sea mining.
The rise of deep sea mining
Deep-sea mining has the potential to be disastrous for the planet. The delicate carbon cycles, which are poorly understood but are essentially important for separating greenhouse gases, could be irreparably damaged, leading to a spiraling emissions release that deepens the climate crisis. The unknown impact is likely to have removed thousands of tons of sediment over large areas of the ocean. Damage to the ocean floor is likely to remain unrecovered for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Deep-sea mining (DSM) is many things: novel, poorly understood, potentially destructive, politically controversial, and commercially uncertain. The only study on its long-term effects has found that ecosystems remain barren for decades of life, even with minimal mining.
Alarmingly, proponents are touting DSM as a good alternative to the catastrophic effects of land-based mining, claiming that DSM is not only a safe and low-impact alternative, but has little impact in the remote reaches of the deep sea. ecological value. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The deep sea, once thought to be an empty void, has been found in recent decades to harbor a miraculous range of species. From angler fish to giant isopods, the deep sea has rich biodiversity that communicates with blazing sounds and sparks of light. These sparks of light are so abundant in the deep ocean that they are the most common form of communication on the planet.
Amongst this rich biodiversity is more than half of the Earth’s supply of vital minerals. The deepest parts of the ocean floor remain effectively impenetrable with mining technology unable to withstand the extremely high water pressure of deep ocean efforts. This year, that could all change: With technological advancements, nations and corporations have deep-sea mining operations.
forfeiture of evidence
Corporations already investing heavily in deep-sea mining are claiming that lack of evidence is evidence of absence. That is, companies are taking advantage of the paucity of available data on deep-sea ecosystems to suggest that their actions will have little environmental impact, while the actual impact is unknown. While major fossil fuel companies completely hide information about climate change from the public, deep-sea mining companies have the advantage of having very little information to hide, in some cases preventing the acquisition of such information. to work. Fortunately, we have enough information about the deep sea to know that its high biodiversity and caches of undiscovered species are of far greater value to humanity and resilient ocean ecosystems than the short-term benefits of exploitative and destructive mining industries. is.
ISA, the most important international body you’ve never heard of!
The International Sea Level Authority stands in the midst of an unknown environmental disaster and the mining industry eager to begin exploitation. The ISA, headquartered in Jamaica, is a small independent body assembled by the United Nations with few staff and minimal funding. There, in Kingston, a small gathering of people is drafting mining regulations that would govern the exploitation of our planet’s largest swamp.
Deep-sea mining companies and nations hope to ignite a maritime industrial age of their own; Massive machines several stories high are their proverbial steam engines. Today, we have the chance to learn with certainty what we would have done two and a half centuries ago to reduce the environmental damage of the coming era, if we only knew the climate disaster we could have avoided. This time we have an opportunity to avert a far reaching maritime disaster.
our opportunity to work
The ocean is central to solving many of the crises we currently face, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice. The ocean is also key to President Biden’s commitment to protect 30% of our land and water by 2030. As the deep sea is being targeted as the next frontier for the mining industry, we have been called upon to protect the deep sea. We are proud to announce the official membership of Earthjustice deep sea conservation alliance, a pre-eminent coalition of more than 80 nonprofits globally, is striving to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems.
Very few times in our history have we had the opportunity to take action to protect the planet before a new extraction industry is born. We have the unique opportunity to help shape the railing that will prevent harmful action before it begins and ensure that deep sea mining is undertaken only when the risks are fully understood and mitigated, Let the deep sea be preserved as a common heritage for generations.