Arctic Canada is one of the largest undeveloped terrains remaining in the world, and is in many ways unique. The ecological balance of the regionis more delicate than tropical or temperate regions of similar size. This region is likely to be developed by research for and production of resources, primarily petroleum, in the immediate future. As well as sensitive terrain surface caused by permafrost in some areas, many large and small mammalsand birds are also in a delicate balance with the environment. Small changes in this balance can have large effects.
The probability of finding petroleum in different regions varies widely, but already there aregood indications on the mainland and in the Islands that bath oil and gas are present. Geophysicalwork in the offshore, particularly the Beaufort Sea, suggests further promising potential. Possible reserves in the Islands and mainland Arctic mayamount to 50 or more billion barrels.
A responsible approach to problems facing exploitation in an Arctic environment includes thecareful monitoring by industry of likely effects of their activities. The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Research Association test loop at Inuvik providesan example of such monitoring. Outside Canada the operations at Prudhoe Bay on the north coast of Alaska show how major companies may operate responsibly and reduce environmental interferenceto a minimum. Nevertheless, four variables must affect any decisions to be made concerning energy resource exploitation in the Arctic. These are man's need for energy, economic and industrial pressures to develop energy sources, the desire topreserve a deteriorating environment, and the role of Government as representing all individuals in the country and their several points of view. Factors that must be taken into account in making any decisions include the importance of Canadian oil in a world picture, the need for alternative sources ofenergy in the near future, the depletion of nonrenewable resources at an accelerating rate. and the increasing awareness that the major problems facingman have no direct technical solution, and that social or political decisions must precede further technological development.
Arctic Canada is one of the largest undeveloped terrains remaining in the world, and is in many ways unique. As far as resource development is concerned, little may be learned by comparingit with other regions of the earth's crust, The ecological balance of the whole region is many times more delicate than a tropical or temperate region of similar size. Mistakes made now could have very long-term effects, which might be irreversible.
Some of the largest industrial systems in the world are engaged in competitive research for resourcesin the Canadian Arctic. These systems operate on va.st budgets, and for the most part bring with them a tradition of free development previously established in regions of very much less environmental or ecologic sensitivity. They are now, in fact, operating under entirely different conditions in a different situation, in a different environment from anything previously experienced.