March 5, 2017:
Buenos Aires, Argentina — I am a notoriously last minute packer. Generally, this entails waking up the morning of a flight, throwing together some essentials into a carry-on, and bolting out the door. This time, however, I was posed with a conundrum — what does one pack for an expedition to Antarctica?
That question is just one of a number of moments in which I have caught myself and realized what an anomaly Antarctica is — contrary to what we know and hold to be true in our daily lives.
Couple that with the irony of my Thursday: Last-minute travel to Boston for meetings, returning in the afternoon, taking an Uber home to grab my suitcase, another car to the airport, and boarding a two-leg flight to Buenos Aires, traveling 6,000 miles in the process. Under the pretense of an expedition to Antarctica to learn about global warming, did I just single-handedly burn a hole in the ozone layer?
The genesis for this expedition was in 2011, when I took a seminar on global warming during my freshman year at Northwestern. It was a scientific exploration around the underpinnings of global warming, exploring both the data and literature supporting the idea of climate change, in addition to the arguments against the phenomenon.
Over the past six years, we have seen climate change become an increasingly politicized topic, subject to the jockeying and rhetorical tactics of our leaders. For each of us, this begs the question — what is really going on? Is our way of life truly at risk? If global warming is indeed a reality, how long will it take to experience the effects?
Tomorrow morning, I will depart Buenos Aires with 86 other individuals hailing from 30 countries, and we will make an expedition to Antarctica. My goals for this endeavor are four-fold:
- Experience the wonder of Antarctica, a place that defies every notion of what we know to be true. How can a place be devoid of conflict, war, or the smog-belching activities that have become the fingerprints of humanity?
- Go beyond the political discourse and venture straight to the source. I want to see for myself the realities of climate change and feel the gravity of the task ahead.
- As most adventures for twenty-somethings tend to be, I am looking for an enriching personal experience. One where I am humbled, reminded of the insignificant speck of dust I am on the surface of this planet. One where I am challenged, forced to articulate what I stand for and what my individual sacrifice and contribution will be to in the fight to save the planet, for our collective benefit.
- Be part of the solution. What does long-term, consistent progress look like? Do our individual contributions start and end with recycling campaigns? Are we to engage our political leaders and begin to institute mechanisms by which public actors promote climate friendly behaviors? Or is it time to fully throw our support behind market-driven solutions — the Teslas of the world — to create products that are used for their merit alone?
As with any endeavor in my life, I am privileged and humbled to have countless family, friends, mentors, advocates, and even random strangers by my side — a confluence of support that has pushed me to explore and unfold the world’s curiosities.
I am not going on this journey alone. This blog is my attempt to share what I experience with whoever takes interest and wants to listen. The challenge at hand will never be solved alone. So please read, comment, email, and engage — I would love to hear from each of you on what I expect to be a breathtaking experience.
For those confused by the long-winded title of this blog, I thought it was interesting for a few reasons:
- Upon first glance, Antarctica looks “upside-down” on a map of the world.
- Consider that Antarctica is an icy desert, frigid, but with a biodiversity that is so rich and varied. The continent is so extreme that it is contrary to anything else I have experienced, and it may very well turn my own world upside-down.
- Finally, to put it brusquely, humanity’s approach to climate change thus far has also been upside-down.
So join me on this adventure of extremes and upside-down contradictions, as I get on a ship tomorrow and sail to Antarctica — the last untouched wilderness on Earth.