Still from "earthrise" episode "Food for Thought"
S1 E14: Antarctic Sanctuary

Antarctic Sanctuary

For centuries, mankind has been hooked on the concept of a mysterious continent at the end of the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans called it "the unknown southern land" and a century ago, Captain Robert Falcon Scott paid the ultimate price on his famous South Pole expedition.

Antarctica, the planet's southernmost continent, is home to spectacular biodiversity — from emperor penguins and blue whales to krill. But climate change, oil drilling and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening this undisturbed land and its iconic creatures.

Greenpeace has been campaigning for the creation of a massive ocean sanctuary in the remote Weddell Sea. The marine reserve would cover 1.8 million square kilometers and would be protected from direct human impacts like fishing and deep-sea mining. 

"Scientists are saying we need to protect a third of the world's oceans, at least. If we want to let fish stocks recover, if we want to mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change, then Antarctica is a great place to start," says Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace U.K., who leads the Weddell Sea petition — one of the most significant campaigns in the environmental organizations' history. 

In October 2018 the 36 governments responsible for the conservation of Antarctic waters met in Australia to make a final decision on the protected area. 

"earthrise" joins Greenpeace's expedition to the Weddell Sea, as a team of scientists, ocean photographers and ocean experts set out to gather sufficient evidence to ensure that the proposal is carried through and that international support is garnered. Later, we meet up with them again in Australia to see whether the bid to create one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world has been successful.

Available until
2019-08-14T00:00:00-07:00

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Our consumption of the earth's natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years. Now, a third of the planet's land is severely degraded. Each year, we lose 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil. And at least 10,000 species go extinct every year.

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Antarctica, one of the most remote and desolate locations on Earth also functions as one of the world's main cooling systems. However, after decades of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, parts of the continent are now warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. 

Over the years, climate change has led to increased erosion of the continent, altered ocean currents and affected wildlife. Warmer currents are now flowing further south, towards the icy terrain, contributing to glacial melt, rising sea levels and drastically changing habitats.

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This episode of earthrise visits those putting themselves on the line and pushing for urgent climate policy reform before humanity reaches a point of no return.

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Three-quarters of all land on Earth is now significantly affected by human activity and the few remaining pockets of wilderness are themselves at risk of becoming ecological deserts. Agriculture, industry, urbanization, climate change — all these are decimating ecosystems and destroying biodiversity. Some 60 percent of the world's animals have been wiped out since the 1970s.

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