Great news! President Obama has officially moved to protect vast swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from offshore oil and gas drilling. According to White House Officials, Obama is invoking the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs the Outer Continental Shelf to block drilling in federal waters in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea and most of its Beaufort Sea. This measure has also protected 21 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean from drilling.

This action is part of the U.S. Atlantic and Arctic Ocean offshore leasing plan that runs from 2017 through 2022. Given the length of the lease, these waters are set to be protected all the way through the term of President-elect Trump. Although Trump could take measures to repeal this, the process would be lengthy – not to mention, the White House has explained that no previous president has tried to undo a drilling withdrawal under the 1953 law and there is no provision to do so. Canada has also agreed to cease drilling and the moratorium will be reviewed every five years.

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“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth,” Obama said in a statement.”They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.”

The delicate and relatively untouched ecosystem of the Arctic needs all the protection it can get, especially in the face of rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, and the ever looming threat of plastic pollution.  We often forget the fact that we need the oceans for our own survival. These massive swaths of water provide us with a majority of our oxygen, absorb around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and help to moderate our climate. Without a healthy, stable ocean, humanity cannot survive. 

Taking action to protect some of the world’s last pristine marine areas is a crucial step in securing our environmental future. President Obama echoed this sentiment perfectly, stating, “It would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region — at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.”

Our planet as we know it hangs in the balance due to the impact of global climate change, swift steps such as this give us hope that there is still time to protect the untouched natural areas we have left and begin to foster a renewed sense of respect and stewardship.

We all have the power to make a difference using nothing more than our everyday choices. To learn more about how you can start making a positive through your diet, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign. You can also make an enormous impact by cutting back on disposable plastics, to learn more,  join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic movement.

Image source: outdoorsman/Shutterstock