The protection of wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica
AffiliationFaculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsSummerson, R. M. V. (2013). The protection of wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica. PhD thesis, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2013 Dr. Rupert Matthew Valentine Summerson
The protection of wilderness and aesthetic values in Antarctica was mandated by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the “Madrid Protocol”, which came into force in January 1998. Implementation of protection has, however, been delayed by problems of definition and assessment. A survey of the history of Antarctic exploration shows that from almost the earliest days of exploration visitors to Antarctica have been struck by the vast, awe-inspiring and beautiful landscapes and those attitudes have persisted to the present. The history of the development of the Madrid Protocol demonstrates that the desire to protect these values can be traced to guidelines for managing human impacts dating from the mid-1980s. Human impacts in Antarctica derive mainly from the operations of national Antarctic programs (NAPs) and although tourists now outnumber staff in NAPs, to date their impact has been confined to ten or twenty favourite landing sites and a small number of sites where tourism companies have established land-based facilities. NAP facilities, by contrast, are widespread, especially in coastal ice-free areas and are characterised by the establishment of permanent infrastructure. It was hypothesised that it is the establishment of infrastructure that detracts from wilderness and aesthetic values more than transient activity. A strong case can be made that all Antarctica is wilderness unless it has been degraded by human activity, i.e. the construction of infrastructure. In terms of wilderness degradation, therefore, the area which has been degraded is that from which infrastructure is visible. In order to test this hypothesis, a series of surveys were carried out, the final survey being established on the Internet and based on the use of digital images of Antarctic landscapes. The images in the survey were also categorised by landscape type, derived from the Environmental Domains of Antarctica (EDA) regionalisation. The survey comprised three components: a) perceptions of wilderness, in which respondents were asked to decide whether or not the scene in the image constituted wilderness; b) to give an aesthetic preference rating on a seven-point scale; and c) to assess the suitability of a number of adjectives for each scene. Some demographic information was also collected. The survey was made available in four languages: English, Japanese, French and Spanish. Over 500 respondents from 24 countries contributed to the surveys. The results of the Internet survey, in particular, show that human presence was found to make images significantly less likely to be considered as wilderness and also reduced their aesthetic rating; people therefore preferred natural landscapes. Coastal ice-free areas were less valued aesthetically than mountainous and ice-covered terrains. Human presence was consistently detected in responses to questions on perception of wilderness, aesthetic preference and in the semantic responses. The results were extended by terrain modelling to analyse the areas degraded by visibility of infrastructure. The results of this research show, inter alia, that wilderness and aesthetic values and human impacts on these values are measureable and therefore amenable to the development of policies to protect them.
Keywordswilderness; aesthetic; values; Antarctica; Madrid Protocol; Antarctic Treaty; landscape
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