Remember When Antarctica Wasn’t Falling Apart?

There was no denying it.  Antarctica was falling apart, crumbling like a ball of dried out play dough.  The scientists took photographs and measurements and put together little animated graphics showing how much ice was melting.  The people finally took notice, and started buying pieces of Antarctica to keep in their homes.

Under the Emperor Penguin Accords of 1983, trafficking in pieces of Antarctic ice was illegal and punishable by fines, incarceration, and a process called “cold boot” where the authorities shoved handfuls of snow into your shoes while you were still wearing them.  But the demand for the ice was so great that the rewards outweighed the risks.  “Ice Poachers,” as they came to be called, started making trips to Antarctica and chipping off more pieces to sell.  It became a status symbol to have a piece of the southernmost continent in your home.  Of course to keep it from melting you had to keep the ice very cold all the time.  Wealthy people would build entire freezer rooms to maintain their chunk of Antarctica.

For people of more limited means, there were fewer options.  They had to obtain smaller chunks, small enough to fit inside a conventional freezer.  And then of course people had to keep less things in their freezers.  For many people, it became impossible to keep leftovers more than a day, and they all found themselves having to eat a lot more at dinner.

The black market for Antarctic ice thrived.  Buyers and sellers exchanged cash for ice in dark alleys and shopping mall parking lots, using codes in texts and on Craigslist, like, “Need some big ice.”  But after a few high profile arrests and reports that the laws discriminated against people of lower income because they couldn’t afford the elaborate disguises that wealthier people could use, like hiding the Antarctic chunk in a landscaping truck delivery of mulch, states began to take a softer stance.  Some states began to decriminalize Antarctic ice poaching and owning, some states making it a mere civil penalty, other removing all legal sanction.

It is still illegal under federal law to own a piece of Antarctica, no matter how large or small the piece.  Whether states’ rights in this area will prevail, only time will tell.

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