A global survey commissioned by Greenpeace has revealed that 74 per cent – nearly three quarters – of respondents agree or strongly agree that governments should create a protected area in the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole, providing a sanctuary for animals and other marine life. Another impressively high result shows that 71 per cent of those polled agree the entire Arctic Ocean should be free from oil drilling and other types of heavy industry.

This is the very first global public opinion survey on the idea of an Arctic Sanctuary. It covered 30 countries, on six continents, in 22 languages. The poll was conducted as an online survey and results were weighted against the most recent census data in each country to ensure a representative sample.

Today, concerned citizens from around the world are taking this message to the highest elevations of their communities to share the demands of the silent majority:

The world wants a sanctuary in the Arctic!

Greenpeace volunteers and activists are climbing mountains and rooftops to display Save the Arctic banners in solidarity with the world's citizens who are demanding the same of their leaders.

With such broad support for a protected Arctic Ocean, what are governments waiting for?

Earlier this week, the Arctic Council - an intergovernmental forum for Arctic cooperation - held it's inaugural Arctic Economic Council meeting; giving industry direct access to Arctic decision-makers. This initiative was spearheaded by Canada's current chairmanship with its blatant pro-industry and anti-environment agenda. It is totally out of step with what the global public wants.

As the Arctic sea ice melts, many Arctic governments have already opened up their own shores and northern waters to the dangers of oil drilling and exploration. We have a unique and historic opportunity to urge them to safeguard the future of our planet and use their leadership to protect, not plunder the Arctic by stopping industry from moving further north. Leaving Arctic oil where it is now, far underneath the sea bed, would not only save the region from the severe risk of major oil spills, it would also keep the carbon in the ground that caused the melting in the first place.

The central Arctic Ocean has not yet been destroyed. Governments can work together to create an Arctic sanctuary in the form of a marine reserve in these waters to block out all destructive industries including the exploration and extraction of oil, gas, and minerals, industrial fishing, military activity, and place strict environmental controls on ship traffic.

The proposed area for the sanctuary is in international waters covering the central Arctic Ocean, beyond the 200 nautical mile boundary of each Arctic coastal state's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Outside the boundaries of any state or traditional Indigenous territory, the central Arctic Ocean belongs to us all. Its future is at risk as oil companies and trawlers target it for drilling and overfishing. Its future is in our hands and now that the world has spoken in clear and unified support for an Arctic sanctuary, it is time to act. Its time to fulfill a democratic obligation to save this region so future generations of humans and wildlife alike may benefit from its natural beauty.

An Arctic sanctuary would protect one of Earth's most fragile and unique ecosystems, home to narwhals, polar bears, sea birds, and more. Similar to the protection of the Antarctic, establishing a sanctuary would still leave the area open for scientific study and some shipping.

Over 900 influential politicians, academics, Nobel laureates, artists, and more have added their names to the International Declaration on the Future of the Arctic to use their influence within a rapidly growing movement to save the Arctic. With their support and the majority of citizens from across the globe who we now know agree, we can work together to land on the right side of history.

Join the movement to save the Arctic at www.savethearctic.org

Greenpeace Campaigner Farrah Khan at the Ice Ride in Toronto.  © Greenpeace / Andrew NortonFarrah Khan is Arctic Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.