Actress-turned-activist Pamela Anderson has written a letter to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin asking for action on climate change in Antarctica.
The world’s only uncharted continent was discovered by a Russian polar expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev precisely two centuries ago, on 20 January 1820.
Anderson, who has Russian ancestry on her mother’s side, congratulated Vladimir Putin on the anniversary but called his attention to the impact of climate change on the pristine frozen world.
“Two hundred years on, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are a very different place from what Von Bellingshausen and Lazarev first saw,” the 53-year-old activist wrote.
“The region is now on the front line of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Together as a global community, we can put in place measures which will safeguard this precious wilderness in the future.”
One of the most famous guardians of Californian beaches has called on Russia to support designated marine protections areas in the East Antarctic, the Weddell Sea in the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula, a piece of land stretching out from the continent toward South America. She has previously petitioned Vladimir Putin to rescue sea mammals such as orcas and beluga whales.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the fragile ecosystems of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are under threat of rapid change and biodiversity loss due to rising temperatures, tourism, overfishing, and pollution.
A United Nations special report released in September found that the ocean is becoming warmer and more acidic, melting Antarctic glaciers and ice sheets.
Just last week, a record high temperature of 18.3C – 0.8C above the previous peak in March 2015 – was logged at an Argentinian research base on the Antarctic Peninsula.
The international community has established two protected marine areas in Antarctica, one in 2009 and the other in 2016. They cover a total area of 1.64 million square kilometres, roughly the size of Spain.
Since 2016, the 25 nations that have signed up to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources have struggled to set up new areas because of differences over what activities (fishing, in particular) should be banned there.
In November, the international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources failed to reach a compromise on designating marine protection areas in the waters off East Antarctica, which cover more than 3.2 million square kilometers.