We might be geographically far away from the Arctic but the cruel reality of steadily melting ice and rising temperatures is affecting and is going to shape the future of not only the four million people who live in the region but millions of people in countries like India as well. This means that our political leadership has a huge responsibility which cannot be shrugged away, as their approach to the Arctic will play a huge role in determining the legacy we pass on.

The melting ice in the Arctic will lead to devastating impacts to the traditional livelihoods, customs and sources of food for the people living there but the changing weather patterns will adversely impact many countries. Added to this the coastal cities will have to pay a huge cost for sea level rise and islands could disappear entirely. One can only calculate what this would mean for a country like India which predominantly is an agricultural economy which is dependent on weather patterns and also has a huge coast line with millions of livelihoods dependent on it.

The consequences of climate change in the Arctic are a clear warning and calls for urgent international action to protect this fragile ecosystem. But instead of heeding the warning, the oil, gas and the large scale fisheries industry see the melting ice as an opportunity to exploit this very pristine and diverse environment. The expansion of the oil and gas industry poses an unprecedented threat to the Arctic environment whilst risking further warming once the resulting fuels are refined and burnt. On the other hand, as the marine ecosystems in the Arctic are not well understood it is not known what the impacts of destructive fishing practices will be on the Arctic ecosystem.

As the global political response and political will to take urgent action against the combined industrial pressures on the Arctic has been minimal to what is really required to ensure survival of this unique area, a few global citizens act on behalf of humanity to protect the Arctic as it will play a huge role in shaping our sustainable future. But instead of recognising the threats in the Arctic, they are treated as criminals and charged with crimes of hooliganism and piracy. I am referring to the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists, the Arctic 30, who have been detained without trial in a Russian jail for the last 2 months for a peaceful protest against oil drilling by Gazprom in the Arctic. They acted in the right as the dangers of drilling in the Arctic are immense and this ecosystem is probably one of the most vulnerable to oil spills on Earth. To begin with it is very difficult to detect oil below ice and amongst broken ice sheets, and experts suggest there is no way to contain an oil spill if it is trapped underneath a large body of ice.

As the fate of the Arctic 30 is yet to be decided there has been much support pouring in globally not only from recognised and credible groups in the civil society but also political leadership. This solidarity only goes to show that there is an acknowledgement that their activism to protect the Arctic was not a crime and was much needed at a time when many parts of the world have already started facing the impacts of climate change.

It should be natural for a nation like ours to stand in solidarity with the Arctic 30 and support their immediate release as India has been a landscape marked by movements of civil disobedience and activism and this has been a part of our history. Gandhi, one of the prominent figures of Indian Independence preached and practised Non Violent Direct Action, the very principle used by the Arctic 30 to bring the attention of our political leaders to an issue of global importance that has long been ignored. There definitely has been progress in that direction as 35 Members of the Indian Parliament across political parties have signed on to a statement of solidarity that recognises the need to protect the Arctic and demands the immediate release of the Arctic 30.

While this is only the beginning, India as an observer on the Arctic Council has yet to play a more proactive role in calling for the Arctic region, specifically the area of international waters around the North Pole to be made a global sanctuary, shared by all nations and devoted to peace and science. This is when one can say that our political leadership is on its way to fulfill its responsibility in protecting the nation from the threats of climate change and marking the relevance and importance of our historical struggles.

Here's the latest list of Indian Parliamentarians supporting the Arctic 30:

Maneka Gandhi: BJP
Basudeb Acharya: CPM
Sandeep Dikshit: Congress
Captain JPN Nishaad: JDU
Agatha Sangma: NCP
Jaya Prada: SP
B Jayashree: Independent
N Dharam Singh: Congress
Mohan Jena: RJD
Rudra Madhab Ray: BJD
Siddhanta Mahapatra: BJD
Dr. TN Seema: CPM
Jayaprakash Hegde: Congress
Dr. Chandan Mitra: BJP
Shivanand Tiwari: JDU
Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal: BJP
Basavaraj Patil: BJP
A. Ganeshamurthy: MDMK
Dr. Charles Dias: Congress
Thangso Baite: Congress
Mansukhbhai D. Vasava: BJP
J.M. Aaroon Rashid: Congress
Dr. Ajay Kumar: JVM(P)
O.S. Manian: AIADMK
Tathagata Satpathy: BJD
Dr. Ponnusamy Venugopal: AIADMK
Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav: RJD
Shripad Yasso Naik: BJP
Mohammed Adeeb: Independent
Sanjay Paswan: ex-Minister, BJP
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: BJP
Suresh Prabhu: ex-Minister, Shiv Sena
Piyush Goel: BJP
Dr. Ram Chandra Dome: CPM

Neha Saigal is a Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace India.