Friday, September 18, 2009

The last wilderness

(originally posted on the Terra Infirma Blog)

On Tuesday night I was invited to a fundraiser to send a young man, Joe Spedding, on an expedition to the Antarctic as part of the 2041 campaign to maintain the continent as the Earth's only untouched wilderness and draw attention to climate change. 2041 is the year when the international agreement to preserve the Antarctic is up for renewal.

The talk was by Robert Swan, the founder of 2041 and the first man to walk to both poles. The tales of derring do, determination and hardship were at times overwhelming, and Swan got rather brutal first hand experience of two global environmental issues. On his South Pole trek in 84/85, the walkers' faces blistered and peeled far more than had been expected. It was only while they were there that the hole in the ozone layer was discovered. On the walk to the North Pole five years later, they found sea where they expected ice - evidence of climate change - which as a scientific phenomena was only just emerging at that time from academic studies into the public arena. Amongst his myriad other claims to fame, Swan now owns the only private building on Antarctica - an educational building powered entirely by renewables. His life is now dedicated to the global environment.

Joe Spedding saw Swan talk about these experiences when he (Joe!) was just 11 years old. 11 years later and he is fulfilling his dream to travel to Antarctica - the aim of the trip is to train him and others as environmental ambassadors and leaders. As one of my formative environmental experiences was an expedition to the Ecuadorian rainforest in 1993, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing and was happy to make a contribution. Pity I can't go too!

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