In this section

Teachers’ notes | Politics of Antarctica

Students can learn about Antarctic legislation under the Antarctic Treaty, the context and the modern challenges. Students can gain an understanding of the conservation measures and challenges faced within Antarctica, under the Treaty and what science is currently conducted for the good of all.

Within this unit students will be able to:

  • understand the issues of economics vs environment
  • understand selected environmental and political issues
  • understand values/attitudes involved in decision making of the use and management of the environment and resources
  • understand environmental management strategies
  • consider issues of environmental sustainability, global citizenship and conservation
  • skills of analysis, decision making, research, presentation, evaluation

4.1 The Antarctic Treaty

Warm up

Students can learn about the international political context of the Antarctic Treaty including the different articles within the Treaty. The Antarctic Treaty is very different from other agreements in that no military use is permitted, science comes before economic gain, that nations really co-operate for the good of all and sovereignty is put aside. Students are given an opportunity to consider the Antarctic Treaty and to think about other forms of governance worldwide. In most other countries/regions/treaties economic gain comes before the environment and differences may be settled with military action.

Cool Facts

Having completed the activities in Warm Up. Students can complete the Antarctica quiz to consolidate the history and aims of the Treaty.

Student Activities

1. The CCAMLR boundaries are much larger than the Antarctic Treaty boundaries and include sub – Antarctic areas because of the migratory nature of many of the fauna

4.2 Conservation

Within the introduction, students can read about the context of conservation within Antarctica and how it has evolved during the 20th Century to reflect changing attitudes towards the environment. This includes the various resolutions and agreements as well as areas of special protection.

Warm up

This activity is designed to highlight the number and range of endangered or vulnerable species in and around Antarctica.

Endangered species are species which are at risk from becoming extinct because of few numbers or threatened with changing environment or predator parameters.

Vulnerable species are species which are at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.

The chart shows the increasing number of sea birds that are endangered or vulnerable. Seabirds are more threatened than any other species group of bird. This warm up introduces students to the larger scale of endangered species and then focuses in on sea birds and more specifically albatross.

Cold Facts

This section provides a case study on the albatross. Factual information is provided to learn more about the albatross, why it is endangered and what conservation methods have been implemented to try and halt the decline of the albatross. There are charts and graphs provided for students to focus in on the plight of the Wandering Albatross. Students consider this chart and graph material more thoroughly within the student activities.

Students are able to learn the basics or click on links to other resources to learn more in-depth information. There crossovers with the overfishing materials found in the Sustainability section. Students are also able to learn the context of the Antarctic Treaty as well as other agreements which impact on the conservation of the albatross.

Student activities

1-5. Students are able to consider and analyse information and data concerning the survival of the albatross. Students are able to make links with economic activities (fishing) and its impact on the bird life of the Southern Ocean. Questions 1-5 provide opportunities for discussion, especially in considering the challenges in conserving the albatross. Question 5 would stretch more able students and would encourage a more thorough examination of the linking materials provided in Cold Facts. Within these tasks students can become familiar with appropriate geographical and scientific vocabulary.

6. Students are able to learn in more detail about the conservation methods that can be employed by the fishing industry to protect the albatross. This has crossovers with the overfishing materials in the next section. Students can use research skills, skills of analysis and interpretation and evaluation as well to try and devise their own opinions about the topic. Students can learn how economic gains can impact negatively on the environment and the importance of issues of citizenship in terms of preserving endangered animals for the future.

4.3 Science

Students can learn about what science is conducted on Antarctica and how it has global significance to help solve global issues such as global warming. Students can become familiar with the British Antarctic Survey.

Warm up

Students become familiar with Article II of the Antarctic Treaty and what activities are being conducted by scientists on Antarctica.


Answers for match it up exercise:

Heads Tails
Aeronomists studying the ozone layer over helps us understand how ultraviolet radiation affects the earth.
Astrophysicists studying the stars in helps us understand the evolution of the universe.
Geologists studying the rocks helps us understand the theories of continental drift
Glaciologists studying the ice sheets helps us predict the impact of future melting on the earth’s seas and affects on global climate.
Climatologists study ice cores helps us predict future climate change and learn more about how carbon dioxide affects temperature.
Biologists study flora and fauna helps us improve our understanding of evolution and our understanding of the affects of climate change on organisms.

Cold Facts

Students can learn more about what studying on Antarctica is like by listening to the audio recording from Bird Island. There are links here with the aims of the Antarctic Treaty in maintaining Antarctica as a place of peace and science but also with issues of global citizenship and sustainability as science helps to preserve the planet for future generations.

Student Activities

1-2. Although the work of scientists has benefits for all, scientists too can impact negatively on the environment. In the past, early scientists did not consider waste disposal in an environmentally friendly way, but today the approach is very different. The activities in this section enable students to consider their own actions in terms of waste disposal as well as consider waste disposal on Antarctica. This links with global citizenship, environmental sustainability and conservation. These activities provide opportunities for discussion, decision making and forming their own opinions.

3. Within this activity, students can use their research skills to develop a clearer understanding of waste disposal and pick out relevant material to present to the class. This activity can improve ICT skills through internet searching for relevant material, analysis of relevant material and presentation using powerpoint. Students should be guided to pick out only the relevant materials and for weaker students more direction to fewer relevant links may be required.

4. The research conducted in (3) can then be linked into the Antarctic agreements. A clear knowledge of the Madrid Protocol on the Environment is recommended to gain a clear understanding of how Antarctica needs to be protected from all activities on the continent, even science. Students gather relevant information from the Protocol to consider the disposal of certain items of waste.