As a young child, I loved climbing trees. Above the ground I could see the world below where everything was quiet and my perspective was clear. It was a place to go, where, for a short moment, the world made sense.
And making sense of this world can sometimes seem tricky.
Let’s take the current situation in the Arctic. While an overwhelming majority of scientists continue to warn us that the burning of fossil fuels may soon result in an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer months, oil companies like Shell, Gazprom, and Statoil, are finding this a welcome business opportunity to send their ill-equipped “Arctic-unready” rigs further north to drill for a risky profit, keeping us locked in the same fossil fueled future we’re being warned against. This just doesn’t add up.
And yet, there is good reason to believe that the global public is seeing through this illogical madness. According to newly released polling results from 30 countries spread over six continents, 74% of people want to see the creation of an Arctic Sanctuary in the International waters around the North Pole. In addition, 71% want to see the entire Arctic Ocean free from oil drilling and other heavy industrial activity.
The public demand is clear. And to be sure it’s heard, last week we went climbing.
In a coordinated global day of action in over 24 countries, from New Zealand to India, from Norway to Brazil, people from all walks of life lifted the message to Save The Arctic up to some of their highest and the most iconic points.
In Bangkok, activists dropped a huge banner spelling out the connection between the melting Arctic and the need for 100% renewable energy, knowing all too well that changes in the high Arctic will cause changes everywhere. In Sweden, high above the Arctic Circle, climbers ascended to the highest glacial peak, Kebnekaise, to call on global leaders to Save The Arctic. Ironically, Sweden’s highest peak is melting and on track to soon become its second highest.
In Spain, the climbing was tough going. A team met at the base of a daunting 200 meter cliff and over the next grueling six hours, made their way to the top, pausing only briefly along the way to display a banner and speak to a media crew.
Just before the climb, Miguel Angel Gavilan, an amputee of the left hand, said, “It’s going to be a great physical and mental effort. It is insignificant for the vast majority of people, but it will be very hard for me, it’s my modest contribution to work towards having a sustainable and better world.”
And this is why we climb. The collective struggle for a cleaner, safer world, one we can be proud to hand down to future generations, urges us all to go to great lengths to be heard. When a region as remote and stunningly beautiful as the Arctic becomes threatened with oil drilling, overfishing, and the passivity of political leaders, we shout our message from the rooftops. When polls show that three-quarters of the world demand an alternative to the madness of exploiting the Arctic, we climb to tell it on the mountains.
The world has spoken. A protected Arctic makes sense for us all.
It’s time for global leaders to heed the call.
Ethan Gilbert is a Volunteer Coordinator at Greenpeace Nordic.
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