[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, December 12, 1996
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): It is our pleasure to have with us this morningMr. Garrett Brass, executive director, and Mr. George B. Newton, Jr., chairman, from the United States Arctic Research Commission.
I think Mr. Newton has an opening statement, and after that we will have questions and answers and discussion.
Mr. George B. Newton, Jr. (Chairman, United States Arctic Research Commission): Thank you, Mr. Bergeron.
Committee members, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
I am the chair of the United States Arctic Research Commission. With me today is Dr. Garrett W. Brass, who is the executive director of the commission. We both appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to share with you some insights on the Arctic research program in the United States.
First, if I may, I would like to give you a bit of background about myself. I was educated as an electrical engineer and was commissioned in the U.S. Navy upon graduation. During my subsequent 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, I was further educated and trained as a nuclear engineer in the navy's nuclear submarine force. It was during my naval service in 1971 that I was first exposed to the Arctic environment.
From that time on, including my 15-year post-military career, the Arctic has been either my vocation or my avocation. I've been actively involved in our nation's Arctic programs continuously since 1982. I served as a pro bono adviser to the Arctic Research Commission for three years before being appointed as one of its commissioners by President Bush in 1992. I was reappointed earlier this year by President Clinton and elevated to the position of chair.
It is appropriate, I believe, to begin my discussion of U.S. Arctic research by briefly describing the law under which I serve, the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984.
The fundamental purpose of the act is to provide for a comprehensive national policy dealing with national research needs in the Arctic. The findings of the act are many. They address every aspect of Arctic research: social, economic, ocean, land, space, and atmosphere, plus the necessary logistics to support them all.
While the act is directly concerned with Arctic research policy and priorities, its underlying theses are communications, sharing, and cooperation, for it was generally an uncoordinated, fragmented, and often duplicative approach to Arctic research that motivated its author, Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska, to draft the legislation.
The broad purposes of the act are: to establish a national policy, priorities and goals for U.S. Arctic research; to provide for a federal program plan for basic and applied research in all disciplines; to establish the Arctic Research Commission; to establish the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee; and to designate our National Science Foundation as the lead U.S. agency for implementing Arctic research policy.
First, I'll give you a brief description of the commission. The commission is made up of seven members who serve on a part-time basis. Their backgrounds must be varied and must reflect Arctic experience. Four members come from the academic community or have been closely associated with it. Two members come from the business community and are representative of those who reside in the Arctic and understand private industry needs and resource development in the Arctic. Lastly, one member is from the indigenous people of the Arctic, and represents their needs and interests.
Our professional staff is small. There are four people.
In practice, we meet at least four times a year. We also take a field trip annually to broaden our collective understanding of the Arctic, its research execution and requirements.
It is significant to note that the commission reports both to the president and to the Congress. Of equal importance, perhaps, is the fact that our job is to recommend policies and priorities for research. We serve as advocates, but we fund no research.
Another unique requirement is imposed upon the commission. We are required by the act to meet at least once a year in Alaska, America's Arctic. This is extremely valuable. During my personal seven-year association with the commission, it has met in different cities, towns, and villages; it has toured Alaskan facilities and enterprises; it has been exposed to the real research needs of the Arctic, told by those who are in the field; and it has afforded us a regular opportunity to meet the people and kick the tires, so to speak, of Arctic research.
I am sure that all of you, as elected officials, are sensitive to the value of rubbing elbows with your constituents. I share that feeling, and even for the commissioners from Alaska it is similarly valuable.
I'd like to share with you my definition of an Arctic expert, passed on to me by a man with much Arctic experience. You're an Arctic expert if you've been there less than twice or more than 20 times. Simply stated, you need to be there to comprehend fully how much there is to learn.
I'd like to briefly describe the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, IARPC, which works with us jointly under the act. The interagency committee is composed of senior representatives of each executive branch organization having an active research interest in the Arctic. Ten departments or agencies are members. The director of the National Science Foundation chairs the committee.
The committee and the commission are directed to work closely in developing Arctic research policies and priorities. The committee has several other responsibilities. The most special and unique to the committee is the requirement to develop a five-year Arctic research plan that implements the research policies we jointly develop. The plan is submitted to the President for transmittal to Congress. The five-year plan is updated every two years.
In summing up my discussion of the Arctic Research and Policy Act, I believe it is accurate to say that it is working - perhaps not as well as many of us would prefer, but we are making progress. First and foremost, everybody who needs to know is informed on what the government believes is important in Arctic research, and research funding decisions are guided accordingly.
We believe the act has made the government, and thus the nation, a smarter, better consumer. Being a smart consumer is becoming more and more critical, as we attempt to advance our understanding of the Arctic in an atmosphere of declining budgets. We must be organized and we must continue to overcome the institutional barriers of departments that in the Cold War era could essentially set their own priorities and fund them accordingly. That means, obviously, that we must cooperate in our research efforts.
As I alluded earlier, we are making progress in U.S. Arctic research. We have succeeded in involving the Alaskan native people more in research by keeping them informed of research plans and results. Alaska now has a Native Science Commission. Traditional native knowledge is being used as a valid input to field research programs. One town has instituted a research tax on scientists who visit to conduct research, in the form of a requirement that the visiting researcher must give a public lecture about his Arctic research discipline. The first of these lectures was attended by fewer than 15 people, but now they are significant local events given to standing-room-only audiences.
Clearly the Arctic natives of Alaska have an interest in Arctic research. They have knowledge to contribute. They want to participate and they want to know what the results are.
I would like to dwell for a second on international coordination.
The most active program for evaluation of contamination problems in the Arctic is the Arctic environmental protection strategy, or AEPS. AEPS activities are currently divided into five study areas: the Arctic monitoring and assessment program; the conservation of Arctic flora and fauna; the preservation of Arctic marine environment; emergency prevention, preparedness and response; and the sustainable development working group.
The United States is a full participant in AEPS, and our IARPC agencies are responsible for supporting participation in working groups and producing reports on U.S. data and activities. Unfortunately this program was adopted without a new funding base, and the IARPC agencies are forced to curtail current activities to provide funds for AEPS participation. In these times of budget stringency this is indeed a difficult task.
The United States, Canada, and the remaining Arctic interest nations need an integrated program to study fundamental questions in the Arctic, such as the paths by which material of all kinds is transported in the Arctic, and the processes that can transfer contaminants from one transport path to another, such as the inclusion of contaminated sediment in sea ice - a process we know occurs but don't understand well.
We need an inventory of contaminants throughout the Arctic, particularly in the former Soviet Union. We need to rescue historical data that will help us understand phenomena such as the statistics of river flooding and the probability that a 100-year flood can mobilize ground-entrenched contaminants that have lain dormant for years. We need to watch and at the same time to develop the means to mitigate these risks when they occur.
Contamination in the Arctic has a very real and dangerous potential to affect the lives of all citizens of the U.S., and indeed the world. Our federal agencies have been active in formulating plans for a comprehensive approach to the problem, but lack of funding has impeded and fragmented our efforts. We are continuing to work on improving our level of activity in AEPS.
I'd like next to talk about the submarine Arctic science program. One of the most significant recent achievements in cooperative Arctic research has been a submarine Arctic science program. In this program, now in its second of five years, the U.S. navy has agreed to provide, annually, a nuclear submarine to operate in the central Arctic Ocean, with the sole mission of providing support for the civilian science community. The navy provides a submarine at no charge to the science community, and the science participants from four participating civilian agencies pay for the science. This is an unparalleled opportunity for scientists to have access to the Arctic never before available, at least to the western world.
Significant new findings are coming from the data collected by these cruises under the Arctic sea ice. Several civilian scientists have ridden the submarines during each cruise. The Arctic Research Commission was instrumental in bringing the parties to this program together. It is a program wherein a partnership has been formed, and all members get something out of it. The science community gets unique access to data from an ocean area previously unexplored, and the navy gets to sustain its skills in under-ice operations.
I might add also that there has been Canadian scientific participation in each cruise conducted thus far in the program. I was informed yesterday that active Canadian participation is being strongly considered and evaluated in peer review for the cruise that will take place next year.
In concluding these remarks, I must share with you an often-forgotten rule of the Arctic, which I call Arctic research rule number one: nothing ever works the same in the Arctic. If the rule is properly understood, researchers communicate in advance, they cold-test experiments in temperate areas, they share data, and they cooperate. They must, because doing research in the Arctic is more expensive, in every respect, than in temperate areas.
However, it is apparent to me that in spite of the challenges of cost, distance, logistics, and the environment, interest continues to grow in Arctic research - and well it should, for there remains much to learn for all of us.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members. With the support of Dr. Brass, I'm ready to answer your questions.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Mills, for questions.
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): I guess the overwhelming question that I got out of visiting, with some of my colleagues, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and that area, was how all of them were concerned...I mean, we would start on a topic and immediately revert to the topic of Murmansk and the problem there - the description of 80 submarines sitting there, so dangerous that you'd have to build a cement ship around them to literally move them, and then the problems of transport, etc. We saw pictures of those rods sitting in a gully, and the severe potential danger of that sort of thing certainly made an impression on all of us.
Norway said they would be prepared even to put money in to start the clean-up, but there's nobody to give the money to. There is no infrastructure there; there's nothing. Obviously that problem could become magnified and could become our problem as much as the Scandinavian countries'. What is the U.S. feeling on that, and how can you solve that problem?
Mr. Newton: Mr. Mills, I'm not sure that in our lifetime all Arctic nations or the nations of the world can solve that problem.
The commission met in 1992 with our counterparts in Russia in Magadan, during which they openly admitted the degree of contamination that exists, not just in Murmansk, but in the Siberian areas, where they had conducted such extensive ground and low-level atmospheric nuclear testing during which the contamination of the earth was significant.
A conversation developed among the Russian delegation. One of the commissioners stated in conversation that billions and billions of curies rest on Russian soil. Another commissioner reached over, grabbed him by the arm and said, ``Not billions, but a lot''. I think that significantly describes the severity of that problem.
If I can take my response a little further, the Murmansk situation is indeed very severe; however, much of the radioactive material is contained within reactor vessels and they are within submarine hulls. Maybe they are not built to the integrity of submarine hulls that we in the United States or you in Canada would traditionally like to see after a certain lifetime; nonetheless there is some form of containment for that radioactive material.
My concern, and the concern of nuclear scientists and scientists in general, is the radioactivity that is lying dormant - ground-entrenched, as I mentioned in my prepared statement - can be unleashed by a 100-year flood or a significant advance in global warming. If the permafrost thaws and you get a sloughing off of significant amounts of the upper layers of topsoil into the Russian rivers and the Arctic Ocean, that is truly a very serious problem.
The problem becomes even more serious when we, as a world, really don't have a solid, firm handle on the currents of the Arctic Ocean - and, Dr. Brass, please correct me if I get off base here.
So if the Russian rivers start dumping significant amounts of water, entrenched sediment and soil that is highly radioactive, where does it go? We think we know, and it's based on some very sound scientific estimates, but we have no confirmation taken from empirical data collected in the field - something similar to the kind of information the submarine Arctic science program is starting to bring back, put into the literature and add to our understanding of water distribution in the Arctic.
We know from experiments that have been conducted by our U.S. army co-regions research and engineering laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire, that sea ice is contaminated with radioactivity that has emanated from the Russian coastal regions. This has been found off the coast of Alaska - I won't say right off the coast - in the Beaufort Sea, north of the Alaskan north slope. So it is clear that it gets there. What is its mechanism? We don't have a solid enough understanding of ice transportation or ice-floe mechanics to be able to define that and determine, in some way, how we can mitigate that effect so in future generations we just don't spread the contamination like a disease germ is spread among people.
It is a significant problem. As a nuclear submariner I feel confident, through my association with the nuclear reactor program, to think the reactors that have been dumped on the ocean bottom - albeit it's an absolutely abhorrent thought - are probably not the contamination problem we should be worrying about, because the land-based contamination is the true unknown.
Mr. Mills: Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.
Mr. Newton: I'm sorry. I'd rather tell it like it is, because it's certainly the way we are trying to describe it in the United States.
Dr. Garrett W. Brass (Executive Director, United States Arctic Research Commission): If I might, Mr. Mills, I brought along some slightly scarce documents, and if you want more I will endeavour to get some.
This is the report of the now defunct Office of Technology Assessment - the government cost-cutting measures have done away with it - called, Nuclear Wastes in the Arctic. I have a secret source for more of these, so if you need more I can get them. The guy who published the study now works in another office in Washington and kept all of his copies.
This is the summary, and it's mostly scientific abstracts, of the research conducted by the Office of Naval Research under the Arctic nuclear waste assessment program.
Do you have one?
Mr. James Lee (Committee Researcher): No, but I'd like to.
Dr. Brass: This is my only copy, and I'm going to have to go beg another one from ONR, but I will endeavour to get more if the committee wants them.
There are two other programs that perhaps you ought to know about. I don't remember the name of the first one, which is a cooperative program between the U.S. Department of Defense and the EPA to build a vitrification plant in the Murmansk area, and that's proceeding. I don't know quite what stage it's at. The other program the commission has been briefed about is called AMEC. It stands for Arctic military environment concerns and it's a trilateral program between the U.S., Norway, and the Soviet military establishment.
One of the problems with nuclear contamination is that when the military is finished with its nuclear systems reactors or processing plants or whatever, it passes to MINatom, which is a civilian agency, and it will not be covered under the AMEC program. I don't know what's going on between our Department of Energy and MINatom in Russia, but I'm sure they're thinking about these problems. I don't know what they're doing.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Gentlemen, we will now move to Mr. Assadourian.
Mr. Assadourian (Don Valley North): Thank you very much.
First of all, thank you for coming. I was going through this document, the report for January 1995. It says on the first page that you review your goals and priorities every two years. Why is that? The Arctic doesn't change every two years. If you're going to review your goals every two years, then you have no time to work. You must have a reason. Can you explain why you review that? That's my first question.
The other question concerns the Arctic Ocean. What kind of research do you do on the bed of the Arctic Ocean?
Mr. Newton: The sea bed?
Mr. Assadourian: Yes. That's my second question.
Also, you never mentioned in detail what kind of relationship you maintain with the native population in the Arctic region and what kind of relationship you have with other Arctic nations. As my colleague mentioned, we went to the Scandinavian countries in September. I don't know if you were aware of that. I'm sure you were. We had a meeting of the Arctic Council, where seven or eight nations came together to form this council. What kind of relationship do you have with these other nations?
My final question is on NORAD, the North American air defence agreement. Do you work with them? NORAD also covers the Canadian Arctic, doesn't it?
Mr. Newton: It does.
Mr. Assadourian: If you could answer those four questions, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Newton: We do not work with NORAD. The principal charge to the Arctic Research Commission under the act is to work with civilian agencies. Peripherally we become associated with various aspects of the military in execution of some science, but they are not active participants in the execution and performance under the act.
When I say they have peripheral association, I mean the submarine serves as a logistics platform to carry the scientists. The New York Air National Guard ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft provide transportation and logistics support for field science conducted in Greenland, and I'm sure in some instances for cooperative efforts that have taken place out of Alert. So there's not a lot of involvement there.
Let me go to your first question because I remember that one. Dr. Brass wrote the rest down. We biennially update our goals and priorities to create or maintain a living document. The goals and priorities function as an input or a preliminary document to the revision of the five-year Arctic research plan. We are telling the interagency committee these are things that we believe, from our collective perspective as commissioners and staff, should be the goals and priorities for U.S. Arctic research.
The interagency committee in turn either chooses to agree or to negotiate the differences and produces a biennial revision to the five-year plan. In an ideal world, that five-year plan would be laid upon the desk of Arctic program managers in the executive department agencies and departments and they would say they're going to put money against these various requirements. It's not being followed to the letter simply because you can't introduce anything into a bureaucratic system and have an instant turnover without having adverse effects on what you have been doing in the past. There's a phase-in time, and I'm not sure that it's nearly as rapid as we all would think it would be.
Dr. Brass: If I could make a quick comment too - and I expect you'll all appreciate this - we have a biennial revision of the plan, but we have annual appropriations, and in that appropriation process things can change rapidly. So the fact that we only do it every other year is probably a saving of effort, not an expending of extra effort. You may recall that we had a certain revolutionary election in 1994. A great many priorities changed, and we had to follow that up very rapidly with a revised plan to accommodate the cuts in the budget.
The next question you asked was about our characterization and study of the seabed. Perhaps the most important thing we're endeavouring to do now is to procure and install a swath mathemetric mapping system for the submarine Mr. Newton talked about, the submarine that goes to the Arctic area for us. This will allow us, in two years, to do about 600,000 square kilometres of high-precision mathemetric mapping so that we'll begin -
Mr. Newton: Three-dimensional -
Dr. Brass: Yes. It's three-dimensional, so that now we'll begin to know what the actual shapes are of the Lomonosov Ridge, the Alpha and the Mendeleyev Ridge, and the Chukchi Plateau and things like that. Up until now we only have point soundings around them and can only describe them qualitatively. It also includes what's called a Chirp sonar, which was developed by an American and a Canadian and will allow us about 100 metres of penetration into the sediment to look at the stratigraphy of the sediments below the sea floor.
I might talk about the native peoples as well. In addition to having an Alaskan native person as a member of the commission, we're working very closely with a group now pulling itself together called the Alaskan Native Science Commission. We hope this is going to be our point of contact in the Arctic for all U.S. scientists who endeavour to work at least in association with the native communities in Alaska.
It's going to be a communications channel so that village elders can discuss the planned research and can make sure it's not unnecessarily intrusive and that it's going to answer the needs. It will allow the Alaskan native community to formulate their perception of research needs in the Arctic and communicate that through us. I will sit as an ex officio member on that board, and I'm dedicated to being a communications channel back to the IARPC agencies to tell them what the Alaskan Native Science Commission sees as research needs.
The other question was about other nations. The United States is a signatory to the Arctic Council document, as you pointed out. The United States is a member of IASC, the International Arctic Science Committee, which has a broader membership than the Arctic Council does.
We have a number of bilateral agreements with folks. There's currently a University of Alaska-Japanese agreement that started off with a new building at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks to house Arctic researchers and Arctic research instrumentation.
We've worked very closely with the Canadian effort in 1994 to do the trans-Arctic expedition, you may recall, where the United States ice-breaker Polar Sea and the Canadian ice-breaker Louis S. St. Laurent crossed all the way across the Arctic.
So we have a variety of formats through which we carry out our international liaisons.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you.
Mr. Flis (Parkdale - High Park): If I could just follow right along with this, you mentioned your membership in the International Arctic Science Committee. How effective is this committee? How much cooperation is there now with the Arctic Council, etc.? Is that committee going to become less and less important or will it take on even greater significance?
Mr. Newton: As Dr. Brass mentioned, IASC has a broader membership than the Arctic Council, which is more constrained to high Arctic interests or Arctic rim nations. From my perspective, IASC has never been as effective as, certainly, we would like any organization to be. Again, that view may be coloured somewhat by the fact that perhaps our participation has not been as active, and therefore that translates back to this: the organization doesn't do anything for me, probably because we don't do anything for it.
IASC is not a government organization, and the Arctic Council certainly is a government organization. Therefore, I think there's a need for them both. Both can bring value-added to Arctic research efforts and I think they can coexist. I don't think one unnecessarily tramples upon the ground of the other.
Dr. Brass: I think the original impetus to form IASC was to create a forum where scientific endeavours with interests in the Arctic could talk easily to the people in the former Soviet Union. With the opening up of the former Soviet Union and now the change to Russia and the various republics, that impetus has pretty much evaporated. We can go to Russia and the Russians can come here. We have excellent communication.
IASC, not having a budget, is not a funding agency, so one has to think carefully about what its mission should be. In my opinion - and I think the commission agrees generally - the great advantage to IASC is that it's a forum where we can get together to discuss our common intentions of effort and try to leverage each other's money. If we want to go to the Arctic Ocean and other people want to go to the Arctic Ocean, then we can talk about what resources we can bring and what they can bring. It's a communications forum. It doesn't do research and it doesn't fund research, but it's a place for researchers to communicate with each other.
Mr. Flis: While we're on the subject of commissions, when this committee travelled through the Arctic we didn't hear very many positive comments about our own Canadian Polar Commission. Have you had any dealings with this commission? In your frank opinion, is it a commission that can be dissolved and those moneys put to better use?
Mr. Newton: I'm not going to make that recommendation.
I think about three years ago, Whit Fraser came to Washington and addressed the commission at one of our regular meetings. We have not, candidly, had recent active discussions between the two organizations.
We do, however, maintain a rather continuous dialogue with your polar continental shelf project, which is certainly separate and distinct from the commission. I don't want to avoid answering the question - I have sort of given it - but I do want to apprise you that the polar continental shelf project has been viewed by me, from my earliest involvement with Arctic logistics problems right up until the present, when its executive director came down last June and briefed us on its most recent activities, as the model by which Arctic research logistics should be executed - not just in North America, but really in any Arctic-interest nation.
It's admired because of the severe cost and penalty paid by a researcher going to the Arctic who must, at least in the United States, pay his own way. Realizing the remoteness, the time and the difficulty of getting to where he wants to do research, it makes it very difficult. The polar continental shelf project is very positively viewed because the research dollar that you appropriate for research in Canada goes for research. It doesn't go for a dog team, a snowmobile or an aircraft to get the researcher out so many miles onto the ice. It makes every research dollar more effective to that researcher.
We have long argued that we ought to have a robust Arctic logistics budget. If we had a robust Arctic logistics budget, I'm not sure we currently have the bureaucratic infrastructure to support and coordinate what it might do. That is something that would have to be built.
I've digressed, but I want you to know that this is certainly an admired aspect of Canadian Arctic research.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Loney.
Mr. Loney (Edmonton North): Other than in the Murmansk area, what other sources of contaminants have you listed?
Mr. Newton: Beyond the Murmansk area, there is all the Russian nuclear testing. I think the testing area was in Tomsk and -
Dr. Brass: I should correct my chairman, which is a dangerous thing to do.
These are nuclear reprocessing facilities. They were, in effect, the Russian plutonium factories in Krasnoyarsk, in Tomsk, and in Mayak. I think the total is eight billion curies in ground and underground storage, including a billion curies in Lake Karachai, at Mayak - a lake that now is partly filled with dirt, I think. All of these facilities are in the upper Ob' drainage. They are not currently leaking, although Mr. Yablokov of the Russian environmental committee has testified to the U.S. Congress that their radionuclides are migrating at about fifty metres a year towards the river, which drains and turns into the Ob' River. These are vastly larger than the inventories of radionuclides in the naval reactors that you've seen. In the grey book from the Office of Technology Assessment, there is an inventory of what was known, three or four years ago at least, about all of these sites.
Mr. Newton: Another contaminant that I think it is important to note is oil. Last spring, on the Senate floor, Senator Murkowski provided our country with a very grim picture of the Russian oil infrastructure. The pipelines and the system that transport oil were leaking oil onto the Russian soil at a rate equal to one Exxon Valdez a day. A day! The degree of severity of that problem is astounding. We tend to worry about radioactivity - and indeed we should - but the oil contamination is almost overwhelming when one thinks about that. It's sometimes difficult to identify how long it will take for that kind of contamination to spread beyond the borders of the country, although recently we were briefed by an organization from Alaska that helped Russia contain one of its most serious oil spills.
Oil is Russia's largest cash crop. Unfortunately they don't have the means to deliver to the market at the present time. It is a real dilemma. How do you control it to enable them to survive, prosper, grow, develop and convert to an enterprise-based, democratic way of life, yet at the same time not rain havoc on the rest of the world in their efforts to do so?
Dr. Brass: In that regard, the spill that Chairman Newton was referring to was the Kolva spill that everybody heard about in the paper. That was actually good fortune, in my opinion, because it served as a wake-up call to us. It was not a huge spill by Russian standards. It was far up a very small river, the Pechora, whereas over in the West Siberian Basin on the other side of the Urals, there are enormous pipelines crossing the Ob', which is a huge river. Finally, the Kolva oil spill happened in the winter. The oil was mostly congealed and didn't run very far. If that had been a major pipeline break in the Ob' drainage in the middle of summer, we would have had oil in the Beaufort Sea in a month.
Mr. Mills: Is it true that when they want to increase transport in the pipelines, they just up the pressure?
Dr. Brass: Apparently those pipelines operate at very high pressure, but I was really amazed to find that they run 35% oil-field brines in them. By not removing the salt water from the oil before they transport it, their corrosion problems are horrendous, of course.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you.
Mr. Paré (Louis-Hébert): Please forgive me for getting here late; this is not very polite for our guests. I just arrived from Quebec City.
When we were in Russia, we visited a research centre in St. Petersburg, the Arctic and Antarctic Institute, and we were told about the Intaari project.
Earlier on, you raised the issue of oil, a potential and very real contaminant. The project I just alluded to is supposed to safely open the Arctic to ships, including, I guess, oil thankers. Are we right to have concerns about this project? Moreover, this project includes selling to private business some sea routes which are supposed to be better and safer. Shouldn't we, nevertheless, have concerns?
Mr. Newton: Yes, I think it is of concern. The consortium of Russia, Japan and Norway has joined together to conduct research with respect to development of the northern sea route. I would like to believe they have their long-term effort pointed towards a time in the global warming process when there is greater, easier and less dangerous access to the Arctic north coast of Russia. It certainly would be of concern at any time in the present environment, in my personal opinion, to allow unrestricted transportation for oil-carrying ships along the north coast of Russia, even though they might be escorted by ice breakers.
Dr. Brass: If I might add something, the International Maritime Organization is currently working on safety specifications for Arctic shipping. I think that with your CASPPR, the Canadian Arctic shipping pollution prevention regulations, and the regulations from COGLA, the Canadian oil and gas lands administration - I've only dealt peripherally with COGLA - Canada will be a model for constructing a set of regulations and classification standards for Arctic shipping in an effort to make this a safe transportation process, should it go on.
There are two other aspects that are interesting to note. One is that the Japanese, I believe last summer, went looking for ice in the northern sea route on the eastern end in order to test some ship designs. They found they had to go a hundred miles north because there was much less ice in the northern sea route than expected. This may or may not be related to global change, but one of the things we can expect is freer access to the northern sea route if global climate change induces warming in the Arctic.
The second thing is that we've seen some sketch designs of submerged oil tankers for the Arctic. The Russians may very well be considering converting or building new nuclear submarines to transport oil, which gives us a double whammy for pollution potential, I would think.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Mills.
Mr. Mills: I have a brief question. In terms of the politics of the Arctic Council, it seems to me - but I might be wrong - that there is a certain feeling within the Nordic countries, and maybe Russia, that it might sort of be that the johnny-come-lately's, Canada and the U.S., want to dominate in terms of considering the Arctic and so on. We already have our Nordic Council, and there seems to be a duplication. There are 90 bureaucrats involved in the Nordic Council who obviously have great reason to save that organization. Do you think there's going to be the political will to make the eight countries work together?
Mr. Newton: Certainly, the right answer is, yes, there will be a political will. You get from an organization what you put into it. I hope the Arctic Council can emerge as a strong and cooperative voice in Arctic affairs - particularly from the research aspect of it, since I'm in charge of the Arctic environmental protection strategy - by 1998. It is a very important matter. That's one from which we should not shy away, in spite of the fact that I'm saying this when our country hasn't made a significant commitment in dollars to respond to the Arctic environmental protection strategy. It certainly is, from a researcher's perspective and from a citizen's perspective, a very important thing to be concerned about.
I think a great deal of the success of the Arctic Council depends entirely upon how effectively it is led and how effectively its members participate and commit to making it work. Many microcosms of cooperation have emerged over recent years with the demise of the former Soviet Union that have resulted in unique partnerships we never before imagined possible. I am thinking principally about the submarine Arctic science program.
Prior to three years ago, it would have been unheard of for our navy to announce, some nine months in advance, that it was going to deploy a nuclear submarine to the central Arctic basin during certain dates to conduct research. If one comes from a military background, as I do, you just roll your eyes and say, ``How could that be?'' It is because it provides an opportunity for the navy and an opportunity for science to get something done.
We have given it the acronym...it is called dual use, something from which both participants benefit from a military perspective in developing or maintaining skills that are best developed by actually being there. The civilian science community is gaining unique access to an area previously unexplored and unvisited from which data has been collected heretofore in a non-scientific manner and therefore is of suspect value to the science community - and I don't blame it for being suspect about its quality.
Dr. Brass: I think the Nordic countries, and I presume Russia as well, understand that the Arctic is a circumpolar phenomenon and you can't understand the Arctic without looking all the way around the Arctic basin. In spite of their parochial interests, I think the fact they're all signatories to the council document means they do intend to participate in that.
I can tell you there was some reluctance on the U.S. side for two reasons. First, it was not entirely clear, when the decision was made to join the council, what was wrong with the AEPS that we needed the council to fix. Second, we had already been doing what, in our own self-criticism, we considered to be a rather inferior job in AEPS because of the budget reductions we're all going through. We didn't want to do a worse job in the council than we had already been doing in the AEPS if its responsibilities were larger. I think the latter is still a concern.
We represent the research community and we can do a great deal on the environmental side of questions, but we have yet to see in these discussions our trade representative, our small business administration, our food and drug administration, and all of the people who have to deal with the economic development side of sustainable development. So we're working hard to bring them into the fold and involve them further.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you.
Mr. Newton: I was just going to add to what Dr. Brass said concerning sustainable development. One tends to think of research as somebody in the field taking measurements and logging empirical data for later reduction in a laboratory. But within our charter for research is the requirement to examine things like applied engineering research and things that are very important to us.
Two issues we are actively participating in deal with water sanitation and sewage disposal for rural communities in Alaska and improved rural housing. Some of the public housing put up in Alaska several years ago through a competitive bidding process done by our government awarded the contract for the erection of this housing to a firm from Atlanta, Georgia, which I am sure possessed great background in cold-weather housing construction.
That kind of event only gives the native people of Alaska inferior accommodations when, for probably not much more money, we could gain improved development. Those aspects of research are things about which we have been concerned and are actively involved in. I don't want to leave the impression we're only concerned about empirical data collection in the field.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Flis, I have your name, but would you mind if we pass to Madam Gaffney?
Mrs. Gaffney (Nepean): I too welcome you to this committee. Your comments have been very informative and worthwhile where I'm concerned.
I was part of the delegation that went to Russia. Unfortunately, we never got to Murmansk. We were fogged out. I guess that's something that frequently happens in Murmansk. Murmansk was to have been more or less the highlight or the meat of our trip, and it was very unfortunate we never got there.
During the many meetings we had with officials in Moscow, we got a good sense of what was happening in the Murmansk area. We met with one group of about ten parliamentarians who all represented various indigenous peoples along the Arctic coast, all the way from the Murmansk area up to the Siberia area.
They all had the same concern about the environment and pollution in the north. Many of the indigenous people were migrating inland to get away from that type of thing, yet they still wanted to maintain their residency along that northern tip.
How can the Arctic Council address the environmental concerns of those people and of those of us from around the world? I assume the Arctic Council does not get involved in areas of defence pollution. How can we get it to centre its thoughts on environmental pollution without stepping into the areas of defence? Is there a way we can put that kind of pressure on it?
Even though we met with the people and the ministers, Russia is not going to take the initiative because it does not have the money or the resources and it's in a state of disarray. I think the rest of the world has to take the initiative to get things moving. How do we do it?
Mr. Newton: I'd probably have a much better job if I could answer that question right now - and I don't mean to be facetious in response. You are quite correct and I share your concern that it is going to be incumbent upon the rest of the Arctic Council membership, the Arctic rim nations, or maybe the Arctic interest nations to respond. Certainly from the perspective of the Arctic you would have to include Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
I believe, just as things have happened in the past, the world only responds to a crisis. As yet, we haven't been able to sound the bell loudly enough to create the kind of response within the people's representatives to make it important enough to band together and get everybody to put large sums of money on the table to help Russia out of the terrible turmoil in which it finds itself.
I would hope in the long run the Arctic Council would be the vehicle by which that could happen. I just don't see other international bodies being able to take it on as effectively because of a lack of immediate understanding and action in that particular area.
Dr. Brass: I have a rubric about contamination in Russia, which is that they'll clean up anything we'll pay for. Unfortunately, I don't believe the Arctic Council is a vehicle for transferring the money.
We've seen the World Bank assistance in cleaning the Kolva oil spill. We have this trilateral arrangement with the Norwegians and the U.S. Department of Defense to work on its military contamination problems, but an overarching scheme to fund environmental clean-up in the former Soviet Union is not at hand. As we all know, all of the western nations are struggling to control their budgets and get back on a sound fiscal footing. It's very difficult to come up with the kind of money that's needed.
Perhaps the most promising avenue is that future developments will probably be done in a major way with joint venture developments. The developed country companies that engage in those joint ventures will bring their environmental standards to bear.
We've seen some of that already in oil development in the Far East, in Russia, in Sakhalin. You may know there is a new pipeline going in across, believe it or not, the Chechen Republic to get Azerbaijani oil, I believe, out to the Black Sea. That's a joint venture with a number of western firms, and I think those firms are going to impose western environmental standards on the Russian process.
I might also mention that in the AEPS system, in PAME, the protection of the Arctic marine environment program, there is now a set of draft guidelines for offshore oil development that incorporates recommendations to all nations for employing the best modern standards and technologies for offshore oil exploitation. These don't have the force of law or regulation, of course, but they are advisories to everyone developing Arctic offshore facilities on how to conduct a safe operation. Once again, not to be coy about it, it's aimed predominantly at the Russian experience so that they'll understand what best practices in the west are.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Flis, I still have your name for the second round, but Mr. Speller asked to have a question.
Mr. Flis: I'll bow to the ones who didn't have a chance to ask a question, but I still would like -
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you, Mr. Flis.
Mr. Speller (Haldimand - Norfolk): As I look at this document, I see all the competing interests of all the different groups here. It must be difficult to coordinate these interests and groups. It might be useful to us to know how it's done, because there certainly must be conflict and competing interests with these groups.
Mr. Newton: Mr. Speller, I often shake my head in the same way you have just done.
We were talking about this over breakfast. The thing that makes coordination of Arctic activities, and Arctic research activities specifically, so difficult is that we tend to organize along lines of discipline. You have somebody who is worrying about geology, but a tributary of that geology is a little box labelled ``Arctic geology'', and that has its own little pot of money. The same applies for studying the flora and fauna; there's Arctic flora and fauna. Therefore, buried within the budgets of the various executive branch departments and agencies are little pockets of Arctic activity.
One of the requirements mandated in the Arctic Research and Policy Act is that the Office of Management and Budget is to direct each year that a cross-cut of Arctic science be developed to enable the Congress, and I guess for our benefit as well, to examine exactly what is going on in the Arctic. You get all Arctic things put in the same identification. Basically the cross-cut is that if we organize and fund by disciplines vertically, then horizontally we have to look at it from the Arctic perspective and get all those things on the same line. You're right - it is a huge task.
Long before my association with the Arctic Research Commission began, I was active in the navy's Arctic research programs. One of my first tasks as a private contractor was to find out who's doing what in the Arctic. Organizations over here that were concerned with sensor development had a little pocket of money, and somebody over there concerned with another aspect was doing basically the same thing to understand the environment so they could make sensors work properly or make torpedoes perform properly. They both needed the same information. Well, why couldn't one person get the information they needed and maybe expand the data format by one or two columns to provide both parties with information?
It's that kind of duplication that is a tremendous problem, and it is area-specific as opposed to being discipline-specific. That's why it is so important to go there and actually spend time in the field, to find out the unique anomalies with which one must deal, to understand who needs what, to know the community broadly enough to find out that this person is doing the same thing as this person, so they could all get together.
That in itself is very difficult because both people have to put food on the table. They both need to be funded to keep a job. Therefore, there are times when one or the other is loath to give up their own responsibilities.
It's a product of downsizing. It's a product of being more efficient. It forces tougher choices that are not always going to be popular with the researchers or the people who collect that research, because it means a diminution of what they had been responsible for in the past.
Dr. Brass: At the other end of the street there is a similar problem in the Congress. There is no Arctic committee in the U.S. Congress, either in the House or in the Senate, so the Department of Defense's Arctic research budget goes to the defence appropriations and the Department of the Interior's geological survey budget goes to the interior.
There's a tendency for two things to happen. One, there's a tendency for the whole picture, as described in this cross-cut - which in fact we've only done once in the 12 years the act has been in force - to get lost.
Second, there's the problem Mr. Newton mentioned. When an agency is forced to cut back, often the littlest programs are the easiest to cut back, so if they already only have a little program in the Arctic, it's easy to drop that. But it may be a keystone in some arch of research endeavour that's going on. If you stop funding your airplane and we were counting on your airplane to take biological researchers to Barrow, then all of a sudden we find steps on our ladder have disappeared and it makes the climb much harder.
I'm sure you in the Parliament here find the same process. You probably don't have an Arctic committee either, so your geological survey goes to one operation and your navy goes to another, and it's very difficult to view it as a regional picture rather than as an individual agency picture.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Mr. Flis, after being very patient, the floor is yours.
Mr. Flis: Actually many of my questions have been answered, but I'd like to get your opinion on something we heard in Cambridge, England from the Scott Polar Research Institute.
We were impressed with the number of research articles and research journals they have collected there. It's really impressive. But the scientists there told us there is no international database to collect all of these journals, research articles, etc. Is it true? What is the U.S. doing to develop an international database? If not, is this a mandate the Arctic Council should take on?
Mr. Newton: We too were at the Scott Polar Research Institute a year ago this past summer and were exposed to that same marvellous collection of information, albeit incomplete.
We in the United States have a rather significant database. I think the two largest repositories of information - and correct me if I'm wrong - are Scott Polar and the COLDBACK database that exists in the Library of Congress, worked on at CRREL, which contains a good deal of western and former Soviet Union data as collected.
Data rescue in Russia is probably one of the most serious concerns of the science community. Having said that, I feel perhaps you could answer that better than I.
It's a critical issue and it's an issue for the Arctic Council, certainly. It's something we cannot ignore, because we don't want to relearn lessons that were already in our hands and we just didn't know it.
Dr. Brass: The situation is as you describe it and yet not as you describe it. Let me explain that.
There are more databases than there were tribbles on the starship Enterprise, if any of you remember that particular episode, and they pop up every day. The question of coordinating these databases is the important problem we have to face.
I was at a meeting where we were talking about a database effort we were making, and someone from the Department of Energy popped up and said, ``We have a database of every treaty with native peoples ever made''. Why Energy would have that I don't know, but they had it, and they wanted to put it in our Arctic directory.
There is an effort in the United States called the Arctic Environmental Data Directory, which operates out of the U.S. Geological Survey, and as part of the AEPS system there is the International Arctic Environmental Data Directory, which operates through GRID-Arendal in Norway.
Also, in working with this topic I've learned the lesson that there's data and there's information. I'm never quite sure which it is. There is a major system in the United States called the National Data Centers. There's the National Oceanographic Data Center, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the National Geophysical Data Center, etc.
All government data and government-funded data - NSF-funded researchers, for example - are required to lodge their data, after a certain amount of time, in these databases. They don't always do it. I didn't always do it when I was an academic. Nevertheless they're full of data and they're accessible as well.
As the Internet grows, we're seeing a greater ability to get hold of this data and to query the data. There is an interesting problem, however, in that a very large segment of the database community historically has been for profit. There is a large Arctic database on several CD-ROMs that is available for the modest sum of about $1,000. How are those people going to survive in these days when the Internet makes data available to everybody?
Whether or not we have a single international Arctic database is not the question. Whether we have the necessary links to get to all the useful databases is the real question, and I think that system is in fact growing.
Mr. Newton: I want to add that when I mentioned significant repositories, I didn't mean to be impolitely ignoring the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary. The ASTIS database is significant. I've had occasion to use it and it is a significant resource of Arctic information.
Dr. Brass: There's also a group, and I believe it's an international group, called the Polar Information Working Group. This is a bunch of librarians who construct these bibliographic databases of titles, key words and things like that, as opposed to numerical data, which goes to our national data centres. These are marvellous people who labour very hard for very little reward. I think we should endeavour to support the Polar Information Working Group.
Mr. Flis: I have one final question, Mr. Chairman, which I think will help this committee when we're drafting our report. Looking into the future at the Arctic Council and at all the other research institutes and commissions that are out there, and looking at our two countries, what can you see our two countries doing bilaterally to enhance the goals of the Arctic Council?
Mr. Newton: I revert back to my opening statement in which I stated the goals of the Arctic Research and Policy Act, the underlying theses of communication, cooperation and sharing. I think these are fundamental to bilateral discussion, organization and cooperation.
Up to this point, and I'm speaking personally, I'm not sure there has been the impetus except in these isolated one-on-one situations, where one researcher works with another, one Canadian and one American. Except for those situations, I'm not sure we have had the motivation to get into broader working things.
As I mentioned earlier, I think one of the most important things that we should try to emulate in the United States is the way you handle Arctic logistics. Perhaps what is needed is the opportunity to sit down and discuss just this kind of thing, a cooperative, shared-work endeavour in research, because there certainly is a requirement for us to learn more. We all have a motivation.
I am terribly concerned about the contamination - the oil, the ground-entrenched contamination - in the Arctic, because its migration is inevitable. Unless we start coping with that in advance we're going to end up dealing with it as a crisis. The decisions one makes in a crisis are not always the decisions that one should be making when one has the time to conduct careful, calculated research about mitigating the effects of a potential crisis.
I welcome opportunities to work cooperatively. I don't know what they are and that's what the purpose of discussion is: to find out what the interests, assets, resources and motivations are of two bodies in order to find out where the common ground lies and to find out how both people can feel they are deriving mutual benefit from an agreement.
Mr. Flis: Your testimony this morning has been most helpful. Thank you very much.
Mr. Newton: Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you.
Mr. Assadourian: Since the collapse of the communist U.S.S.R., some things that we knew were proved right. Some things we didn't know. Now we'll find out what the story is. The interests come and go around the nations, especially the Arctic nations, with respect to the council and what have you.
Do you think politicians in the States are paying more attention to the work? Are they prepared to engage in more exploration in the Arctic and maybe see what the future holds for everybody, for civilization, or do they still say it's unknown, forget it, it's more sexy to go to the moon than to explore the Arctic? Is that the same feeling, or have feelings changed?
I see your colleague has a smile on his face.
Mr. Newton: I'm going to start, if I may, and let Dr. Brass finish off, because I can see him chafing at the bit here.
My feeling is that we apply our interest in the country where people feel there is a real concern. The Soviet Union is no longer a threat because it doesn't exist any more. I am telling it the way it is, or the way it is perceived. Therefore, because there is not the concern that something in the Arctic is going to be of grave and immediate danger to our country or to the world, and because we have constrained resources, we must apply those resources where there is indeed a very real concern.
It's a matter of priorities and resources and probably some external motivation magnified by the media. I don't mean to be negative about the media, but certainly communications have improved so much that it's much easier to get the word spread around about a problem than it ever has been before.
If I could make somebody understand that when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles - not if but when, because it is going to happen - the Arctic in the summer would be essentially ice-free and in the winter would contain an ice pack that is probably the size of the permanent ice pack today, meaning that the northern sea route would be open and certainly the Northwest Passage would be considerably more accessible than it is in the summertime today. That would be year-round.
With the melting of the glaciers, the sea level would come up over the state of Florida. Then I might be able to generate some interest that there is very real concern about global warming.
The Arctic, because of its location and just because of the way the environment is, magnifies the effect of global warming and therefore is the spot where the greatest signal will be sent and will be most readily identified. But that's far in the future. I won't say it's so far that it's not visible to perhaps our children or our grandchildren, but it's not in the here and now; we won't have to worry about it within the next ten years. So it's a matter of being able to develop interest and develop concern.
The Russian contamination problem is not something that's going to happen right now, but let me tell you, if you get a terribly warm, anomalous winter so that there isn't the freezing, and if the summer is very much warmer than it was in the past and you have an onrush in transport of contaminants into the Arctic and it starts showing up in the continental shelf, gets entrained in the fish, and starts being ingested by the citizens of the United States and Canada, you know there will be an interest. But that hasn't happened yet.
Dr. Brass: My chairman has just described the sermon that we preach at all times in order to generate interest in the Arctic. I'll now describe the taking of the collection.
I think you have a copy of our goals and priorities report. On page 31 there is a table of inflation-adjusted Arctic funding. You will see that the actual amounts started to decline in 1994. That decline is continuing and may be accelerating.
There are two processes at work here. One is that there used to be a substantial defence interest in the Arctic. With the end of the Cold War, if that indeed is the situation, much of that defence interest has waned. Now, much of that research didn't get into the public domain, so I'm not sure it's a loss for science in general.
The second is that the United States is going to balance its budget by the year 2002 come hell or high water, even high water in the Arctic. Consequently, we have to learn to do our job better. You, too. In that case, if we're going to do good work in the Arctic we have to be much smarter, cleverer, and more cooperative and collaborative than we have been.
At the same time that we've seen funding declines, at the same time that we've seen the budget-balancing act, I think we can take some of the credit for having raised the profile of Arctic research in the United States. I think it is more significant and considered more openly. We had a voluntary contribution of $1 million in the NOAA budget this year due to the fact that we have been communicating with the relevant congressional committees to increase Arctic funding at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So it is possible for the sermon to work and to result in contributions when the time comes to pass the plate. That's the system we hope to promote and increase.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Before we put an end to this meeting, I would like, with your permission, to ask three very quick questions. If you don't mind, I will ask them in French.
On October 24 of this year, this committee heard Mr. Michel Allard, Director of the Centre for Nordic Studies at Laval University, who suggested that Canada use as a model the Arctic Research and Policy Act under which the U.S. Arctic Research Commission was established in the context of the Arctic Research Strategy. Should Canada use the Arctic Research and Policy Act as a model under which your Commission was established and, if so, what could be the value of such a legislation in Canada?
Also, I'd like to know if you have a scientific relationship with such Canadian research centres as the Centre for Nordic Studies of Laval University or the Centre at the University of Calgary.
My third question is about the Arctic Council. We know that the Council's decisions require unanimous consent and that nevertheless, member States have contradictory interests; could the issue of sustainable development in the Arctic become a common interest issue which would unable the Arctic Council to reach unanimous decisions?
Mr. Newton: Responding to your first question, I believe the Arctic Research and Policy Act can be an effective tool by which internal national coordination of Arctic research can be best executed.
In our position as advocates we speak from the bully pulpit. We don't have the control or the ability to mandate budget reorganization or reallocation to fund things that we think are important. We attempt to drive decisions on Arctic research to a consensus. I really think that is the spirit in which the law was intended, and I think it can work as well for Canada as it has worked for us.
Truthfully, I would have to think a little about what I would do if I were to change our Arctic Research and Policy Act. If we fulfilled all the tenets of the Arctic Research and Policy Act, and it received the response within the bureaucracy that the law says it should receive, then it would perform marvellously. If that's an ideal world, do you make it overly constrictive to ensure that you get halfway to your objective, or do you live with what you have and ensure that you can get on?
We talked about the Arctic cross-cut as an important aspect of being able to view Arctic research in its totality and being able to identify areas of duplication. That is a very important aspect of our law, which unfortunately, through time and probably through history, has not always been complied with, because extracting all that information is work-intensive. We now have a budget cycle that is already so extremely labour-intensive and time-intensive that adding another element to it at the working level is extremely challenging.
I think all the keys are there. Within the documents we have given you today is a copy of the act, and I encourage you to look at it. I'm sure you can see areas that wouldn't work within your own country, and therefore you would have to modify, but certainly you probably could adapt them to be just as effective or more effective here as we have found our particular methods to be. It is a model. I do think it works.
We don't have extensive relations with the universities in Calgary that you mention. We are hopeful that later this year or perhaps next year we can continue our dialogue. We have discussed informally the possibility of visiting the polar continental shelf project next summer in our field trip after having been invited to do so.
In my seven years with the commission, we have not had an extensive association with Canada. I'm at a loss, really, as to why. There's always some activity or something else that comes on. I think that just by being here I've gained a greater awareness and sensitivity. I think we can do more than we have done in the past with that.
With respect to the Arctic Council, I'd be repeating myself. I think it's a mechanism that's there. It will work if the people who are participating in it want it to work, and the same goes for sustainable development. I think we have to expand the understanding - certainly in the United States - of the participating organizations.
Dr. Brass and I were talking informally in his office about a week ago and I said, ``I don't really know what sustainable development is''. It is something that is so difficult to put your hands around. Line up ten people in a room and I dare say every one of them will give you a different definition. Its classic origin within the United States comes from the science and technology policy office and from Vice-President Gore, who really sort of created the idea of sustainable development. Are those code words for ``don't harm the environment at any cost''? I don't know if that is truly the way it is.
President Clinton created a new statement on the United States Arctic policy in 1993 or 1994. Sustainable development was a very strong element of that policy, and it remains for us to understand better what sustainable development is.
If it is what I think it is, Dr. Brass has correctly described that we need to involve the small business administration. We're talking about things beyond basic research in the field and in the disturbing of the environment.
We're talking about better housing. We're talking about the ability to live and work better in harmony with the environment, with a minimal amount of damage, and coexisting with the environment in a far more effective way so that future generations won't be burdened with some of the things that we are now looking at with the ozone depletion hole, with the Russian contamination, or with the fishing depletion, for example, in the Grand Banks and in the Bering Sea, both of which are concerns, I'm sure, to you and us.
Dr. Brass: Let me just quickly make a couple of comments on the issues you raised. As far as whether the commission is a model for the Canadian system, you have to understand that the U.S. commission was designed to fit into the U.S. system of executive and legislative branches, so there may be changes you need to make there.
Second, I hope if you do proceed along those lines you'll remember the problems we've described here in having individual appropriations for individual agencies not necessarily taking a pan-Arctic view.
With regard to interchange with Canadian institutions, I may do more of that than the chairman does. For example, there is the Arctic Seminar, I guess it's called, that meets alternately in the United States and in Canada. It will meet this year in Canada, I believe, in Toronto. It brings young researchers, finishing their PhDs, in contact with grey-beards like myself - not quite but getting there - who have worked for a long time in the Arctic, to hear what their research interests are and give them advice and things like that.
Both George and I are members of the Arctic Institute, so we've had contact with that part of the Canadian system for many years.
With regard to sustainable development and the council, I was struck by the comment about the requirement for unanimity. I'm sure as parliamentarians you remember the Polish Parliament that required unanimity and was absolutely paralysed by it - one vote no and everything died. I believe that will not be the impediment in the council that it was for the Poles, because I think individual initiatives will come up, or subgroups of the council will come up with initiatives, in ecotourism and things like that, and the council as a whole will agree to allow those countries to proceed.
I don't think it will require unanimous participation, only unanimous consent, so I expect that this requirement for unanimity is not going to be the stumbling block that it could be.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you. Your comments were very interesting, very instructive, I would say, and very helpful to the committee. If you have no further comments to make....
Dr. Brass: I did have a few other pieces of literature that I wanted to leave with you: our combined annual reports for fiscal years 1994 and 1995; the current version from spring of 1995 of the U.S. national Arctic research five-year plan; I did have another copy of our goals and priorities report, but you have that; and I see I didn't unpack or didn't bring the green volume, which has another issue of this journal Arctic Research of the United States, published by the interagency committee with our collaboration, which describes the 1995 Arctic research activities. I may have it in my bag and I will -
Mr. Newton: I have it.
Dr. Brass: We'll give you a copy of that, too. Ms Hilchie can contact us in Washington if you want more copies of that. We'll endeavour at least to procure them.
Mr. Newton: We thank you for the opportunity to come and talk to you. I hope you've found it as interesting as I have, because certainly from associations like this it's important, and it's a step forward for us. I really mean that. It's positive, and I'm delighted to have been here. Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bergeron): Thank you very much.
We'll adjourn for a few minutes and then we'll come back to an in camera meeting to discuss other business today.
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