You may dread holiday travel. But sitting on a stuffy bus for a few hours or trudging through mucky icy streets is nothing compared to trekking to the North Pole. And there is no warm welcome at the end, no hot chocolate, no blazing hearth.
But that’s what 4 young people did in April of 2013 for the 2.7 million of us who signed a declaration calling for the uninhabited areas around the Pole to be put off-limits to industry. To ensure that it is not exploited, destroyed for profit, and to protect its crucial role in helping block climate change. Noble goal, really difficult trip.
Our podcast this month is all about that trip and why protecting the Arctic is essential environmental work which affects all of us.
In a blog written en route, James Turner reminded us why they were going.
Since the invention of the mouse, we’ve lost three quarters of summer Arctic sea ice. This region is warming faster than any other on Earth, marking the release of each new iPod with a new record in temperature extremes, habitat loss, environmental crashes.
Hashtags won’t fix this. At some point we need to take action, to stand up and be counted against the brute force of the oil companies, lobbyists and politicians who willingly pollute our climate system. They repeat the same defeatist mantra — ‘we’ll need those fossil fuels for decades to come’ — despite knowing the terrible human costs of this approach. They rely on passive acceptance of the fossil fuel age, despite the massive untapped potential of alternative technology.
I’m with four young people here in the Arctic to draw a line in the ice.
In our episode you’ll hear Renny Bijoux from the Seychelles talk about how his island nation could disappear completely due to rising sea levels. Kiera-Dawn Kolson, an activist, singer and defender of indigenous rights who lives in Denendeh in the North West of Canada talk about digging deep when she was tired, and Josefina Skerk,a law student and member of the Sami People in Sweden, one of the oldest Indigenous Peoples in Europe who have relied on the Reindeer for hundreds of years, talk about the hardcore training she did before they left. The youngest member of the team, was an actor who had never been to the Arctic, Ezra Miller, famous for playing Kevin in the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
These young people were supported by photographers, videographers, logistics experts, mountaineers, a radio operator and of course guides. There were 16 people in total and they all relied on the pros, the guides, led by Eric Philips.
Philips, president of the International Polar Guides Association and one of the world’s leading polar guides, has been going to the North Pole for 12 years and was responsible for taking our team north. He writes in his blog (written en route) about the tenacity it takes to manage navigation in the Arctic.
The North Pole is a mathematical construct, an imaginary convergence of lines of longitude. But the North Pole — a stationary point — happens to be in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and its shifting pack ice is subject to the forces of wind, current and tide. This ice movement is known as drift.
Our journey began 30 km from the North Pole with the ice drifting northeast; a direction that was of benefit to us. But on the second day, a shift in the wind sent the ice southeast and we began to battle the drift, much like an icy treadmill.
Before we left I gave this advice to these young, brave explorers: “Know and respect the power of the Arctic environment. The sooner you know your place in the Arctic order, the sooner your arrival at polar enlightenment.” They’re certainly coming to understand what oil companies must: there is no predicting or controlling this wild and magical place.
The Greenpeace Canada podcast appears monthly. To subscribe, access resources and the archive of other episodes, visit www.greenpeace.ca/podcast
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