Emma Shortis

‘Saving the Last Continent: Environmentalists, Celebrities and States in the Campaign for a World Park Antarctica, 1978–1991’ (PhD in History, 2019).

Between 1978 and 1991, the global environmental movement achieved an unparalleled success: overturning a decision to introduce mining in Antarctica and instead securing a comprehensive environmental protection agreement for the entire continent. This study explains how and why such a tremendous shift in international environmental politics was achieved. The indefinite mining ban and pre-emptive protection of the ‘last continent’ was largely the result of a decade-long campaign for a World Park Antarctica. A small group of environmental activists lobbied key political actors, engaged celebrity, and shaped public opinion. Those activists insisted that Antarctica was too fragile, too precious, and too important to open up to environmentally catastrophic mining. From 1978, the campaign for a World Park Antarctica engaged in direct action protests, conducted a secret campaign at the United Nations, and lobbied the negotiations over an Antarctic minerals regime. They connected this international campaign to local efforts across the world. In Australia, World Park campaigners spent a decade raising awareness and framing the national debate over Antarctica on their own terms. In France, they recruited the world-famous Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau to their cause. By the time the Antarctic Minerals Convention was adopted in 1988, the World Park campaign had laid the groundwork for an effective anti-ratification campaign. World Park activists succeeded in convincing the French, Australian and United States governments to withdraw support for the Minerals Convention and agree to the comprehensive environmental protection of the entire continent. The campaign’s ability to convince these governments to either pursue or acquiesce to environmental protection, and build a new international consensus, is a remarkable success story in the chequered history of global environmentalism and non-state activism more broadly. This thesis sits at the nexus of environmental, international and emotions history, helping to explain how and why emotional mobilisation and social movements work. Through a combination of long term strategy, effective lobbying, celebrity engagement, and emotionally resonant narrative, the World Park campaign succeeded in saving the ‘last continent’ from mining.

Supervisors: Professor Barbara Keys, Dr Alessando Antonello