I never would have thought that 1 week in an office would be what made me realize the intensity and immediacy of climate change in the Arctic.
Climate change is something many of us have heard about. Ive worked on climate change issues and written about climate change for a couple of years. I even had the opportunity to visit the Western Peninsula of Antarctica last December as a chaperone on board a ship with an organization called Students on Ice, which takes high school students to the Arctic and Antarctic on environmental learning expeditions.
As I type this, I am in the Students on Ice office in Gatineau, Quebec, helping to coordinate the media and logistics for the current expedition in Canadas Arctic.
Every single day, the schedule has changed. Logistics consist of Plan B, Plan C, and even Plan J. There is a reason why the motto of the organizations founder and expedition leader, Geoff Green, is: Flexibility is the key. But never before has an expedition been so altered by climate change impacts.
Auyuittuq National Park was closed earlier this week due to mass flooding as glaciers melt at exponential speed. Itinerary change number one.
Major ice blockages up past Pangnirtung in the Cumberland Sound that the ice-class ship was unable to break through, as ice conditions are becoming more extreme (both forming and melting) with climate change. Itinerary change number two.
Dense fog covering the entire eastern Canadian Arctic region, canceling flights for days. The fog came as a result of 30-degree temperatures suddenly plummeting to 5 degrees. Itinerary change number three.
These changes are minor on our end, but it has given me a daily reminder of climate change happening in the north. Its everything Ive read and written about but not something I think about for twelve hours of the day as I re-route students and organize visits to Inuit communities with 12 hours notice. I can barely imagine the way lives, traditions, tactics and structures are being altered on a daily basis for the people who live there.
It has eerily made climate change much more real more so than seeing my parents back yard in British Columbia flushed with pine beetle infestations or the ski hill closing early. For some reason, the smallest inconveniences are making for the furthered realization of an urgent truth. A truth I knew, but was nervous to meet in person. Ive only just caught a glimpse, and I know its just the beginning.
Luckily, the group of students that is up there at this moment includes over 20 northern Canadian youth, along with 40 youth from around the world and 30 scientists, educators, and environmentalists. Even the Commissioner for Nunavut, Ann Hanson, is on board. This team that brings together experiences from northern and southern regions, is educating each other and discussing real and immediate courses of action for when they return home in 10 days time thats one piece of the itinerary that wont be shaken.
The Arctic 2008 journey can be followed online at www.studentsonice.com/arctic2008
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