For growing numbers of people all over the world, “home” is a lost dream. Record-breaking temperatures, natural disasters, crop failures and related conflict are driving people from their homes all over the world, some never to return. In the comfort of our own homes, we may lose sight of our connection with those who are on the other side of the globe facing experiences we have not imagined. The immensity of the suffering calls us to compassionate action rooted in the understanding of our interconnection. That is the motivation behind the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS), an initiative to protect the homes, sustenance and lives of everyone on Earth.
Few news stories covered the ongoing devastation in the wake of hurricanes Eta and Iota, exceptional storms beyond the regular Atlantic naming system that hit Central America in late 2020. But faced with the immense damage to homes, schools, agriculture, livestock, rural livelihoods, and food security in the region, tens of thousands of people have decided they had no choice but to leave an unlivable situation. Despite opposition and adverse conditions along the way, they have fled north in search of shelter—and some even made the terrible decision to separate from their children in the hopes of giving them a better life. The United States’ southern border is now in crisis mode with thousands of unaccompanied minors in detention centres.
More insidious but even more deadly is the increase in heat in the Middle East and North Africa region. A new international study led by scientists from the Climate and Atmosphere Research Center of the Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, predicts that continuing business as usual with increasing greenhouse gas emissions will lead to extreme, life-threatening heatwaves in the region, compelling people to leave their homes behind simply to survive. Up to 600 million people could face these conditions in the second half of this century.
But the way forward for those trying to escape such heat is dangerous too. Since 2014, when the UN’s migration agency began keeping track, tens of thousands of people have died or disappeared attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Northern Africa to Europe. Already this year, almost 300 are known to have perished, and the true tally is undoubtedly higher.
As extreme weather events grow more severe and home no longer can be taken for granted, we must reconsider our own place in the world relative to all those who yearn for a safe shelter to call their own. We have the power to shift our collective trajectory away from devastating heat and storms that leave millions homeless. And we have the capacity to act in true compassion. Created by an all-volunteer team of concerned citizens, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS) is not only the largest preservation area the world has ever seen, encompassing the entire Arctic Ocean above the Arctic Circle. Nor is it only a safeguarding of our planet’s air conditioner, the Arctic sea ice, to protect literally everyone on the planet. MAPS creates the global change in thinking to sustain this life-giving act. It unites humanity in the understanding that we are all one Earth family, and the planet is our shared home. It also brings together world leaders in the commitment to value long-term collective good over short-term individual gain.
The MAPS Treaty declares the Arctic Ocean an international peace park, free from exploitation of all kinds, in perpetuity. It prohibits all activities harmful to the health of the vulnerable Arctic Ocean ecosystem and its sea ice. Since Arctic sea ice cools the entire planet by deflecting the sun’s rays back out into space, its loss is connected with planetary warming and endangers us all. NASA reports a 21% increase in the number of extreme storms for every 1°C rise in sea surface temperatures, so safeguarding the remaining Arctic sea ice is essential to combat rising temperatures and devasting weather events—and mass displacement.
“Close to a billion people, in this very moment, do not have enough to eat,” says Parvati Devi, founder and CEO of Parvati Foundation, the all-volunteer charity leading the creation of MAPS. “Over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and as many as 1.6 billion lack adequate housing. At Parvati Foundation, we are not okay with this. When we remember we are all interconnected, immediate, compassionate action is natural. That is what MAPS is all about.”
Parvati Foundation asks the public to sign its petition calling for the immediate declaration of the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary to protect all life on Earth.