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Three Imaginary Views – 2002

Lacquer and pigments on etched pressed steel disks – 218.8 x 54.8 x 5.7 cm

Pressed etched steel plates coated with 82 layers of organic lacquer, partially obscuring meteorological maps of the Arctic.

Three Imaginary Views is a triptych of pressed steel plates etched with meteorological maps of the Arctic, partially obscured by multiple layers of hand made pigmented organic lacquer. The work references the geo-political divisions of oceanic territories (1) and causal relationships between oceanic pollution and increasing climate instability. (2)

The balance of the Arctic region has a profound effect on the Earth’s climate and ocean systems. Since 1979 the permanent central region of the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover has been receding at a rate of up to 10% per decade. That equates to an area the size of the UK disappearing every ten years. As the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet the health of the poles dramatically effects the wider ecosystem. 2014 saw the warmest temperatures ever recorded with increases taking place ever since.

Disputes over Arctic under-sea borders (3) and the impact of the environmental instability of the Arctic region have exacerbated global climate issues, as a resource race has taken precedence over environmental sustainability. (4)

Scientific research has proven that the potential consequential disaster is essentially man made, boosted by a feedback loop known as Arctic amplification. (5) (6) A race among nations for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, assisted by the impact of global warming, could see this process further accelerating.

1. Under international law, international waters including the North Pole and the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it are not owned by any one country. The five surrounding Arctic countries are limited to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) adjacent to their coasts. The waters beyond the territorial waters of the coastal states are classed as international waters, often referred to as the “high seas”. The sea bottom beyond the exclusive economic zones and confirmed extended continental shelf claims is considered to be the “heritage of all mankind” and is administered by the UN International Seabed Authority.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on March 25, 2007 stated that “riches are awaiting the shipping industry due to Arctic climate change.”

2. The potential value of the North Pole and the surrounding area resides not so much in shipping but in the potential for lucrative petroleum and natural gas extraction.

3. Claims to extended continental shelves, if deemed valid, give the claimant state exclusive rights to the sea bottom and resources below the bottom. Valid extended continental shelf claims do not and cannot extend a state’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) since the EEZ is determined solely by drawing a 200-nautical-mile (370 km) line using territorial sea baselines as their starting point. This point is made because press reports often confuse the facts and assert that extended continental shelf claims expand a state’s EEZ thereby giving a state exclusive rights to not only sea bottom and below resources but also to those in the water column. The Arctic chart prepared by Durham University (see Further Reading reference) clearly illustrates the extent of the uncontested Exclusive Economic Zones of the five states bordering the Arctic Ocean and also the relatively small expanse of remaining “high seas” or totally international waters at the very North of the planet.

Norway, Russia, Canada, and Denmark have all launched projects to provide a basis for seabed claims on extended continental shelves beyond their exclusive economic zones. The United States has signed, but not yet ratified the UNCLOS.

4. Until 1999, the North Pole and the major part of the Arctic Ocean had been generally considered to comprise international space, including both the waters and the sea bottom. However, both the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as global climate change causing the polar ice seasonally to recede farther than these nations had expected due to climate change has prompted several countries to claim or to reinforce pre-existing claims to the waters or seabed of the polar region.

5. see – http://www.skepticalscience.com/What-causes-Arctic-amplification.html

6. This contrasts dramatically from Antarctic sea ice, which is buffered against such extremes of warming.