In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report estimating that 13 percent of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the remaining undiscovered natural gas could be in the Arctic.
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But petroleum products aren't the only commodities appearing where Arctic ice once was.
In Siberia, the tusks of long-dead mammoths, which have been encased in ice for centuries, are now becoming exposed. That's bringing along tusk hunters and ivory poachers.
"After the international ban of elephant ivory trade in 1991, mammoth tusk became sort of a substitute for [elephant ivory]," says photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva who grew up in a town in Siberia and heard about the rush of local men selling mammoth ivory. "So I would say from 1991, people really started to see it as a business."
There are millions of tusks out in the tundra. Many of them are buried very deep in the ice, but some are near the surface, and that's where local hunters are finding them.
So, that's the basic NPR story, but what really caught my attention was an exchange between readers commenting on the story. A writer named Steve Beeman wrote:
Thinking about this rationally, it doesn't seem quite as bad as trading in elephant ivory. After all, they are not killing the mammoths. The amount of scientific information from 100 tusks is not ten times the amount of data from 10 tusks. Still the damage done by the ivory trade is so devastating, anything similar has to be condemned.
To that, a writer calling him/herself decora, decora responded:
yes. lets be sure to condemn the activity of remote rural hunters in the remotest reaches of siberia that hardly anyone ever visits, ever, and that we have never heard of, whose names we can't pronounce, who we didn't even know existed 5 minutes ago. obviously impoverishing them is the solution to chinese business men hunting elephants in africa.
Just another reminder of the disconnect between rural and urban--and how rural livelihoods may suddenly seem like they matter to urban folks, if only because of the urban desire to control valuable resources that happen to be present in rural places.