Youth art exhibit inspired by climate change
BY Brian Lockhart: Special, Allison Herald February 05, 2009
Melting arctic tundra and the plight of wildlife affected by climate change are a recurring theme in an exhibit of original art currently on display at the Gibson Centre for Community, Arts and Culture in Alliston.
The works, all created by students in Grade 4 through 12, are on loan from the McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg.
The show is part of a larger exhibit that began as a program co-ordinated between the gallery and local school boards to coincide with International Polar Year - a designation to bring awareness to changes on our planet.
"We wanted the kids to take the raw evidence of climate change and have them get their own opinion then create their art to create a response," said McMichael Art Gallery Education and Program Director Scott McDonald.
The students were given evidence of climate change from a man-made perspective as well as the view that it is a naturally occurring phenomenon and were asked to make up their own minds.
In keeping with the McMichael Gallery's high standards, schools in the Toronto area were approached about art students who exhibited a high degree of talent.
"We have been working with the school boards," McDonald said, "and asked who in your classrooms would be able to submit?"
Around 150 entries were submitted and a panel of jurors selected 20 works that would be included in the exhibit.
The result is a thought-provoking display that deals with everything from migratory birds to future problems with melting ice in the far north.
Exhibit organizer Linda Mackey has first-hand knowledge of the changes in the Arctic having travelled there with Students on Ice, an educational group that takes students on trips to the far north. She worked with McDonald on the idea of a having students submit works of art with the climate theme because of the approaching International Polar Year.
"The whole idea of the exhibit is telling the story of climate change in art," she said.
The exhibit was open to works in any medium and includes oils, watercolours, mixed medium and three-dimensional pieces.
The exhibit is on display a the Gibson Cultural Centre through March 2.
Arctic Festival focuses on climate change
BY Maija Hoggett, Alliston Herald February 18, 2009
When artist Linda Mackey took what she thought was a once in a lifetime trip to the Arctic in 2002, she developed a passion for the land that she wanted to share with others.
She has been back to the Arctic since then and has been sharing her views of the northern landscape through her artwork. The Arctic Circle of Friends Festival in Alliston this week is bringing to fruition her greater goal.
"I always wanted to do an Arctic festival because I really wanted the north to meet the south," said Mackey.
"What I want to do is create friendships between the north and south."
Given Sir Frederick Banting's connection to the Arctic, Mackey thought it would be particularly interesting to have a local festival. The festival, which runs until Saturday, has three Inuit students visiting for a week and sharing their art, culture and sports.
Banting Memorial High School student Amanda Mackey and two other southern Ontario students who travelled to the Arctic last summer for the Students on Ice Climate Change expedition will also be taking part.
"The youth are the leaders of tomorrow, it's important to involve the youth," said Mackey.
The first event in Alliston for the public to take part in was the round table youth congress on the Arctic and environmental change, yesterday, held at the Gibson Centre it offerred a chance to learn how climate change is affecting life in the Arctic.
After the presentations, including one from climate change scientist Hans Martin, the students will came up with an action plan for climate change. During Earth Week the local students are returning to the Gibson Centre to talk about the success of their action plan.
Inuit athlete Johnny Issaluk will be visiting with local schools Fri., Feb. 20 to teach sports played in the Arctic Games. Their talents will be put to the test the last day of the festival, this Sat., Feb. 21, at the Gibson Centre for an Arctic games competition.
At 6 p.m. that night there will be a three-course Arctic buffet for dinner. For the first course chef Bryan Thompson is preparing two choices, paté of muskox with cognac on northern Cree bannock or smoke Arctic char canapés with lemon dill cream.
The main course is caribou bourgignon served over egg noodles with vegetables. Dessert is angel food cake 'bergie bits' floating on blueberry brand ice wine sauce.
The cost for the dinner is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets can be ordered by calling the Gibson Centre at 705-435-2828.
The festival almost didn't go ahead this year, but at the last minute the International Polar Year sponsored the Inuit students' flights. Mackey said things got rolling from there.
She has asked New Tecumseth for $5,000 to help cover the cost of the festival, which is scaled back from the original $11,000 she requested from the town. "The festival is going ahead with or without the funding. I'll have to charge people entrance fees without the funding," said Mackey.
The festival does have other support from local organizations such as the Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation, the Nottawasaga Foundation and the Gibson Centre, as well as some out of town partnerships.
Any donations will help offset the money Mackey is looking for from the town.
Mackey is saving money on a hotel by billeting the teens in her house, but that means there are meals and transportation to arrange too.
For more information on the festival or to make a donation, contact Mackey at 905-936-2301 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at the Gibson Centre, 63 Tupper St., Alliston.
By Larissa Barlow
Filled with icebergs, polar bears and non-stop learning, it was a summer Leah Pengelly will never forget.
The Grade 12 Canmore Collegiate High School student spent two weeks last August in the Arctic as part of Students on Ice, a ship-based expedition that teaches kids about the environment while exposing them to other cultures.
More than 60 students from a dozen different countries were on the trip that took them up close to seals, exotic birds and giant icebergs.
Pengelly nearly missed out on going after placing fifth in a scholarship contest. Instead she’d planned to spend part of her summer hiking the West Coast Trail. But on the day she was planning to leave, her Parks Canada-employed dad was delayed while giving media interviews about the pine beetle. During that time, Pengelly was called and told two students couldn’t get visas, so she had a place on the boat.
After some quick unpacking and re-packing, she was on her way to the Arctic.
There, not only did she get a first class education in the environment, she also had a summer that she’ll never forget.
It was one unforgettable experience after another to hear Pengelly talk about it.
One such moment was when they headed into Isabella Bay with the hopes of seeing one or two whales.
“We found ourselves surrounded by 200 whales,” she said at last week’s meeting of the Bow Valley Naturalists. “No one said a word the entire time we were there.”
The students also got to see a polar bear on an iceberg.
“It was a great moment in my life. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see,” she said. “It was a very powerful moment.”
By coincidence, another Bow Valley resident was on the trip. Alex Taylor, a backcountry project manager for Parks Canada in Lake Louise has worked in Antarctica as a polar guide for much of the last 15 years. Last summer was his first trip to the Arctic, where he works with Students on Ice as a Zodiac driver.
He said working with the program has become a significant part of his life, and he’s amazed every time at how the kids open up the longer they’re on the trip while learning so many things about the world they live in.
“Each day is another experience,” he said. “The idea is to create these leaders and have the kids go beyond the trip and make changes in their own lives.”
That’s what Pengelly has done since her return. She said she’s become much more aware of her impact on the Earth, and is trying to minimize it – even doing simple things like shutting off the lights in a room no one is using.
She still keeps in touch with some of the students she went on the trip with, and they’re planning to do the West Coast Trail this summer, because she missed it last year.
It was a once in a lifetime experience for Pengelly, who never thought she’d come away with so much.
“I thought I knew a lot about global warming growing up with two parents in Parks, but hearing about it sitting on a glacier…everyone really started to learn and see the effects for themselves.”
For more information on the Students on Ice program, visit studentsonice.com.
Students On Ice explore Canada's vast Arctic
Expedition teams up scientists with young travellers
By Mike Barber, Canwest News Service
When Farzana Wahidy was preparing for a trip to the Canadian Arctic, she shared many of the same concerns a 24-year-old heading far, far north might have: not having Internet access, being thousands of miles from her family and spending two weeks in an environment not entirely conducive to a leisurely vacation.
But for the photojournalist from Afghanistan it also marked a wholly new experience -- travelling with men. "In Afghanistan, it's not normal for men and women to travel together," she said.
Wahidy, who is studying photojournalism on a scholarship at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont., turned her lens from Afghanistan to the Arctic when she took part in this year's Students On Ice expedition to Baffin Island with 65 other young people from around the world (www.studentsonice.com). The annual expedition teams up scientists, environmentalists and polar experts with the students who learn about the precarious balance in which the Arctic hangs.
Wahidy knows plenty about regions in a state of flux. After taking up photography as a teenager in Kabul, she began chronicling the lives of women and orphans in Afghanistan after the Taliban was removed from power in 2001. Since then, her work has been published by the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and most recently, as part of a National Geographic exhibition in Los Angeles.
While she'd travelled to across Europe and throughout much of Asia, Wahidy said nothing that she had seen before could prepare her for the Arctic.
"It was perfect," she said. "It was an entirely different environment for me. To be in the Arctic, it was so quiet and peaceful. There was no thinking about the hard stories from Afghanistan."
With the cool northern air easing her mind, she said she was astounded by the natural beauty -- particularly the seals, whales and polar bears that were as foreign to her as the snow leopards, hyenas and tigers of Afghanistan are to Canadians.
She said the August journey revealed to her the global impact of climate change.
Last summer, satellite images showed receding ice in the Arctic Ocean opened the Northwest Passage for the first time since satellite records began in 1978. Wahidy said that seeing dried up rivers around her hometown in 2007 had much the same effect on her: that changes in North America can affect the lives of those a world away.
Just as she did after the collapse of the Taliban, Wahidy used her camera to record the world around her. "I will photograph whatever I see," she said. "It means a lot to me show (my) world. I find a way through photography to express myself; I feel myself freed."
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Port Hope teen snaps prize-winning Arctic photo
Posted By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today
A photograph taken by Port Hope resident Brenna Owen has been named runnerup in Canadian Geographic magazine’s 2008 photo contest.
The Grade 11 Trinity College School student was uniquely positioned to take extraordinary photos as one of the lucky members of a recent Students On Ice trip to the Arctic.
Her photo of a seal-watching contingent, which placed second in the youth outdoor adventure category, was snapped along the Baffin Island coast during an excursion on a Zodiac watercraft.
It’s one of about 800 photos Brenna came home with — and, compared to the other Students On Ice, that’s not many.
“It was common that people went home with thousands of pictures,” she said.
Brenna combed her photo albums to select entries for the contest that were beautiful as well as photographically good. She submitted half a dozen pictures in various categories and, if any one of them was to be a winner, she would have guessed it would be her shot of a polar bear on a massive iceberg.
“I was surprised and, of course, delighted when the seal photo was chosen,” she said of the shot of a mist-shrouded group with a seal in silhouette in the foreground.
For her prize-winning shot, Brenna received a one-year subscription to Canadian Geographic and a pair of Nikon binoculars. The photo is in a recent special issue of the magazine which celebrates Nunavut’s 10th anniversary, and all the winning photos can be found on the magazine’s website.
This and her other 799 photos remind Brenna of what she deems the most incredible experience of her life, and she now considers returning to the Arctic a necessity.
Ever since she got back to Port Hope last year, Brenna has suffered from Polar Fever, a term she heard when she watched Geoff Green (the Students On Ice expedition leader) interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos on The Hour television program.
“He described a feeling which he called Polar Fever,” she explained. “For many people, myself included, once you’ve been to the Arctic or the South Pole, there is a need to go back.”
Brenna said she has already applied to be part of the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change program, which takes a Grade 11/12 student from each province to Resolute, Nunavut.
“Whether I get this scholarship or not, though, I’ll visit the Arctic again,” Brenna pledged.
“I plan to make the environment my career in some way, and I hope that eventually this career leads me North again.”
Artist captures vanishing landscape
Brian Lockhart, The Allison Star
Oct 08, 2008
When Linda Mackey first visited the arctic she was awed by a landscape that, despite being stark and barren, also contained a natural splendour created from rock and ice.
By the time she returned for her fifth visit to the northland, her thoughts had turned into concern over a lack of snow and glacier fields that were slowly melting away.
As an artist, Mackey has captured the arctic on canvas both with snow covered mountains and later the same scene with a noticeable lack of white covering.
Last week she gave a presentation at the Gibson Cultural Centre in Alliston where there was an exhibit of her arctic paintings and an informational slide show of her most recent trip.
Mackey travels to the arctic with a group called Students on Ice.
Boarding an airplane in Ottawa, the group flew to Nunavut where they boarded a ship that took them to several stops along Baffin Island.
Students on Ice brings an international contingent of students along with teachers and scientists to study the north.
Mackey teaches art to the students, which in this latest trip, included her daughter.
"This year I went for 14 days," Mackey explained. "It was my fifth trip to the Arctic. This time I was able to take my daughter. We had 65 students from around the world including Canada, Mexico, Austria, France and the United States. I taught workshops every day. Part of what they do is to invite people who will motivate the students."
The lack of ice on this trip allowed their ship to enter areas where no ship had ever gone before.
She proudly shows one painting that was created at the point where the historic Franklin expedition had landed.
The lack of snow and receding glaciers is a direct result of climate change, Mackey says, and the impact has a trickle down effect on the environment including plant life and animal species in the region.
She is hoping her paintings will tell a story in visuals and make everyone aware of what the future may be like if climate change continues at its current rate.
"After all, what legacy do we want to leave?" she asked about the future impact on the environment.
The upcoming Arctic Festival at the Gibson Centre will be a celebration of the north and several Inuit students who were on the trip will be taking the trip south to take part.
Mackey is currently seeking volunteers who would like to take part in the event. For more information on the festival and to find out how you can help, you can contact Mackey via e-mail at email@example.com.
Trek to Arctic inspires student
Scottsdale teen planning environment conference
by Alex Bloom - Oct. 7, 2008
The Arizona Republic
Alexandra Polasko has firsthand knowledge that the polar ice caps are melting.
On a student expedition to the Arctic Circle in August, the Scottsdale 15-year-old swam in the ocean.
"I could see the reduction in the ice; I could see the animals suffering; I could see the impact that was happening firsthand," Polasko said.
Back to school at Notre Dame Preparatory, she is planning a national conference to educate high-school students about protecting the environment.
Polasko and two friends from the expedition have made initial preparations for the American Green Youth Summit. They hope to hold the conference in summer 2010 in Boulder, Colo., bringing together two students from each state to learn about protecting the environment.
The summit will be about students reaching out to students, Polasko said.
The three wrote an executive summary that has been approved by a six-member adult advisory board including scientists, an adventurer and a public relations professional.
They're working with the same non-profit that set up their trip, Canada-based Students On Ice.
The group has been taking students on expeditions for the past decade.
Students On Ice leads two expeditions per year - one to each pole - with trips costing $7,500 or more.
Polasko said that after the expedition, each student signs a pledge to do a project back home.
Polasko pledged to set up the conference with the help of fellow students Ophelia Snyder, 16, of Albany, N.Y., and Graham May, 16, of Ottawa.
Polasko's expedition took 66 students to the Arctic Circle on board the Lyubov Orlova. Students spent 2 1/2 weeks learning about the problems facing the poles, with an emphasis on global warming's effect on animals and the environment.
Before the expedition, Polasko said she had a passion for the environment but did not feel connected to it. But after seeing polar bears and sea lions losing their homes, she said she saw how humans affect the environment.
"We are not just simply passengers on the planet," Polasko said.
Her most dramatic experience came on the trip's fifth day when students in Zodiac boats in a fjord came upon a shelf of ice. They watched as a giant shelf crashed into the water.
"I felt as if the Earth . . . as if its arm was breaking off or its finger was breaking off," Polasko said.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
by Roxanna Thompson, Northern News Services
Ramona Menicoche, second from right, takes in the scenery of a fiord along the eastern coast of Baffin Island together with some of the friends she made during the International Polar Year Arctic Youth Expedition - photo courtesy of Ramona Menicoche
LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - After spending two weeks travelling in the eastern Arctic, Ramona Menicoche has a better appreciation for environmental issues affecting the North.
Menicoche, a 17-year-old from Fort Simpson, was one of 66 students from 10 countries who participated in the International Polar Year Arctic Youth Expedition. From Aug. 2 to 17 the students explored the eastern coast of Baffin Island from Iqaluit north to above the community of Clyde River. The students travelled on a chartered Russian ice-class vessel that acted as a floating home, classroom and laboratory.
"Everyone wanted to be there and learn," Menicoche said.
During the voyage the students learned about ice, snow, Arctic habitats and the global climate issues that are affecting the area. They also had the chance to conduct water surveys and look for organisms in the ocean water as well as monitor the water temperature.
Twelve scientists and 10 teachers, who are experts in their respective fields, taught the students.
"They know everything," said Menicoche.
Between lectures, students were taken out on Zodiac boats to look for Arctic wildlife. Sightings included walruses, polar bears, bearded and harp seals, bowhead whales and narwhals.
Sponsored by the International Polar Year, the expedition was run by Students on Ice, an organization based out of Gatineau, Que. The main purpose of the trips is to expose youth to that part of the world, said Geoff Green, the expedition leader and the founder of Students on Ice.
"The Arctic is an amazing classroom and can provide life-changing experiences for these kids," said Green.
The trips are also designed to motivate and inspire the participants into becoming the next generation of scientists and researchers. Although science played a key part in the expedition, staff also included artists and musicians who encouraged the students to try different types of self-expression, Green said.
Bringing today's youth to the Arctic is important because many don't have a connection to nature, he said. The polar regions are critical parts of the world and youth need to know why it's important to protect them, said Green.
After participating in the program, Menicoche said she is more concerned about climate change.
"I'm more aware and conscious about what I'm doing to contribute," she said.
Climate change is happening now but it's difficult to lecture people on the actions they should be taking, said Menicoche.
"If you touched base with everyone and got them on a personal level they'd care more about the environment," she said.
Students can apply for another expedition that's headed to the Arctic next August. This year Menicoche was the only student on the trip from the NWT. She won her spot after being awarded a scholarship available for students from the territory.
"Everyone should be clamouring to put in applications for the scholarship," said Menicoche.
"There's something on that trip for everyone."
Monday, August 25, 2008
Arctic voyage print this article
Lab. City teen has unforgettable experience
by Brittany Baker, The Aurora
Megan Harrington had the time of her life.
The 13-year-old Labrador City girl spoke to The Aurora from the sailing vessel The Polar Ambassador last week as it cruised the Arctic.
Harrington is taking part in the Students on Ice Arctic Expedition as part of two-week international tour of Baffin Island and Nunavik.
Her Arctic surroundings and accommodations have her quite comfortable with no signs of homesickness in her voice.
"I'm having mixed feelings about coming home," she said from the boat's satellite phone. "I want to see my dog, my brother and my parents, but I don't want to leave the boat."
It's no surprise the youngest of the group doesn't want to leave to Geoff Green, executive director of The Students On Ice program, who says the trip has been an amazing experience for all the students who range from 13 to 18.
"Megan is the youngest, but she's been doing really well," reported Green. "They've seen amazing landscape such as icebergs, they've visited some communities, and they have also seen all kinds of wildlife. We have a great group of students, scientists, and educators on board."
The program has students thinking about many things such as climate change, and how it effects the north. But they also try to teach the students about the heritage of the Inuit, as well as how to speak in their native tongue.
"Several of our Inuit staff are teaching us a lot about their backgrounds," says Green, "Things like hunting, Inuit games, legends, and about the history of the people of the north."
"The sailing vessel The Polar Ambassador is designed to travel in the Arctic so we can go into ice," says Mr. Green, "It's comfortable but it's not fancy."
The boat also contains about seven small zodiacs, and according to Green, these boats allow them explore. "Whales come up quite close to us in our small zodiacs," he said, "sometimes even with our ship we are able to get quite close to wildlife."
This year has had some new adventures.
"We've never been to the Sam Ford fjord, but it was just beautiful," Green said. "The hike was hard on the students, but everyone went at their own pace."
The group also travelled to a community called Qikirtarfuaq, which was another first for the program according to Green.
"Qirkirtarfuaq was my favourite community that we visited," said Megan, "The people were really nice, they came out to greet us and then we had a BBQ."
Out of all the places the group went, Megan explained her most favourite was when they went to Isabella Bay. "Isabella Bay was my favourite because that's when we went in our zodiacs and seen the whales and the two polar bears."
Even though this year's expedition is quickly coming to an end Green says he believes that the friends the students have made will last for quite a while.
"They're really coming together as a team, we've got a group of students from 10 different countries," he said, " There are 66 students, 22 are northern aboriginal youth from all across the north, from Labrador to the Yukon and even one girl from Alaska."
With the last day looming overhead, Green says, they only hope the students will go home with a greater understanding and respect for Mother Nature and for the planet.
"In fact," he said, "I think it's a life-changing experience that they wouldn't trade for the world."
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Fort Worth teen finds his way in journey to the Arctic
by Alex Branch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH — Before we tell you about Sergio Samora’s two-week expedition to the North Pole, you should know just how unlikely it is that the 17-year-old is a world traveler.
Four years ago, he was a Meacham Middle School burnout, skipping class and ignoring homework. He lived with his father, a truck driver, his mother and two brothers in the Diamond Hill neighborhood in north Fort Worth.
His mother, Margarita, feared he was on a path to nowhere.
"I wasn’t too good," Samora said. "I almost failed the seventh and eighth grade. I didn’t care about that stuff."
Others saw a kid who could have a future. School officials put Samora in the Campfire USA Step Up program, which fights truancy in Diamond Hill-Jarvis and North Side high schools.
Samora started attending weekly meetings with program mentors, who monitored his progress and attendance reports. They regularly visited his parents. They introduced the idea of college and explained that, if he worked hard, he could go, too.
By the time he finished ninth grade at Diamond Hill-Jarvis, Samora was going to class. The next year, he made C’s and B’s. By his junior year, he made some A’s and B’s. He joined the school’s ROTC program and the photography club.
"Before, he hadn’t realized there were options," said Cecilia Zamora, Step Up program specialist. "There was a whole world out there."
And the world he would see.
First time on a plane
In July, Samora was stunned to learn that the Fort Worth school district had recommended him for one of three $8,500 national scholarships to take an Arctic expedition. The trip is offered by Students on Ice, an international program that promotes educational adventures in the Arctic and Antarctica.
Samora wrote an essay and was accepted, becoming the program’s first Texan. He got word one week before the expedition.
"It was a really huge deal; he joined 65 students from around the world," said Ginger Head Gearheart, founder of Imagination Celebration Fort Worth, which provides cultural experiences to youths and asked the Fort Worth school district to suggest students for the scholarship.
Imagination Celebration bought cold-weather clothes. His teachers at Diamond Hill-Jarvis pooled their money so he would have spending cash. The school lent him a digital camera. ROTC Sgt. Andres Vianes gave him a $150 pair of sunglasses designed for cold weather.
Samora had never left home before, or even flown on an airplane.
His mother Margarita said, "My chest was hurting."
On Aug. 2, Samora flew to Chicago, then to Ottawa, then to Iqaluit, Nunavut. There, Samora and students boarded their expedition vessel, the Polar Ambassador. The next two weeks were a journey north, through landscape Samora had never imagined. He saw glaciers, whales, seals, walruses and muskrats, and touched icebergs. He ate arctic plants. He took arctic swims.
"When we were taking a Zodiac cruise to look at the whales, we saw a polar bear walking on the beach," He said. "I’d say it was about 20 yards away. He was about 3 years old, just walking along. It was amazing.
"The sunset was one of my favorites," Samora said. "There’s a mixture of a lot of colors, and the water looked . . . alive."
Days were long; students were up at 7 a.m. and in bed at 10 p.m. Days were spent in art or photography workshops or conducting science experiments. It was dark for only about four hours each night.
He learned to speak a little Russian from people who worked on the ship.
Samora returned home Sunday, weary but full of ideas. School starts Monday, and he wants to pitch an environmental club for Diamond Hill-Jarvis. He also wants to find out why the school couldn’t be solar-powered.
Students on Ice officials were so impressed by Samora, Head Gearheart said, that there’s a chance two more scholarships for students to visit Antarctica may be available to the school district in December.
Samora said he hopes so.
He recalled a moment when the ship had stopped for students to hike. He sat down near a waterfall, thinking and staring at the ocean.
"I thought about how a couple of years ago, I wasn’t paying attention; probably wasn’t going to graduate," he said. "Now, I want to graduate, and I want to go to college.
"There is a whole lot out there I want to do now."
The Honourable John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment,
with Students on Ice Alumni Katrina Adams (Arctic ‘07)
and Delphine Rémillard Labrosse (Arctic ‘08)
Friday, August 22, 2008
Students on Ice applauds the Government of Canada for its Arctic Conservation Initiative
OTTAWA – Today the Government of Canada announced land and marine conservation measures in Nunavut. Students on Ice wishes to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking these important steps! Among the areas that the Government will protect is Isabella Bay / Niginganiq, one of three places in Nunavut to receive new protected “National Wildlife Area” status today.
On the heels of his most recent Arctic educational expedition, Students on Ice Executive Director & Founder Geoff Green notes, “Earlier this month we were reminded first-hand of the importance to protect Isabella Bay / Niginganiq, when we had the privilege of visiting its waters and spending several hours with over fifty Bowhead whales. It was awe-inspiring to share space and time with these gentle giants.”
The Isabella Bay / Niginganiq conservation announcement is the culmination of over 20 years of effort by many groups and individuals, including Dr. Fred Roots (Students on Ice Staff Alumni), WWF Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Canadian Wildlife Service, the people of Clyde River, Nunavut, and many others. Students on Ice and its alumni commends these organizations for their work.
Students on Ice is very proud of the efforts made by its students Bali Symenuk and Jenna Dickson for their commitment to protecting Isabella Bay / Niginganiq. “In the last year Bali and Jenna have led their peers in organizing a pan-Canada petition that was tabled in Parliament and a letter writing campaign to the Prime Minister of Canada and various Cabinet Ministers for the protection of Isabella Bay / Niginganiq. Bali and Jenna’s efforts have not gone unnoticed and have made a difference!” says Green.
Eighteen year old Jenna Dickson says, “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our Canadian government for making this decision. Although this process has taken a number of years, this gives hope to fellow Canadians who have a dream to make a difference. Many hands across the country have been involved with this step. From a young Canadian who has been truly touched by the beauty and the greatness of our Canadian Arctic, I have never been so proud to live in a country where the voice of our people can be heard.”
Isabella Bay is located on the east coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut and is home to over 100 Bowhead Whales each summer. This is the most important concentration of Bowhead Whales in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. These long-living whales are recovering very slowly from heavy commercial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries. Currently, the Eastern Arctic Bowhead Whales are listed as “threatened,” by the World Conservation Union and the Government of Canada.
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About Students on Ice
STUDENTS ON ICE is an award-winning organization offering unique educational expeditions to the Arctic and the Antarctic. Our mandate is to provide students from around the world with inspiring educational opportunities at the ends of our earth, and in doing so, help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet. Since 1999, more than 1,000 students, teachers and scientists have participated in this life-changing program.
Visit: www.studentsonice.com and www.studentsonice.com/arctic2008
About Geoff Green
Geoff Green has led over 100 polar expeditions, as well as dozens of other adventures around the world with notable organizations such as the Discovery Channel and the Smithsonian Institution. In 2003, he received the prestigious Michael J. Smith Award for Science Promotion in Canada, and he was named a Fellow of the Explorers Club in New York City.
In 2004, Outpost Magazine recognized Geoff as one of “Five Canadian Explorers to Follow”. In 2005, he was named one of Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40” and received a Special Commendation from the U.S. Congress for his work with youth and the environment. Most recently, Geoff was awarded the prestigious “Explorers Club Citation of Merit”.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Student gets chilly in the Arctic
Staff, Torstar Network / The Mississauga News
Mississauga's Rohit Mehta was among 66 students from around the world who returned on Sunday from a 16-day adventure in the Arctic Circle.
Standing at the rail of a Russian icebreaker near the Arctic Circle, Mississauga's Rohit Mehta was captivated by the sights around him.
Glaciers. Polar bears. Bowhead whales. Walrus and seals. An environment he never imagined.
"The landscapes really blew me away," the 18-year-old Mississauga student said. "It's so different from what we have here.
"I feel really disconnected from our environment. We pave over a lot of things, we put nature behind a fence. It taught me that there's a lot more to the Arctic than snow and ice."
Mehta, a John Fraser Secondary School graduate who will enter the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus next month to study environmental management, was among 66 students from around the world who returned on Sunday from a 16-day adventure beyond the Arctic Circle.
He was one of 10 Canadian students who earned a $7,500 federal government scholarship to pay for the trip.
His passion for the planet is long-standing. He was a founding member in 2004 of the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance, and later chaired the group of action-oriented students who care about the world around them.
"I was unprepared for what the Arctic was all about," he said. "The amount of water from glaciers ... there were almost rapids – streams and rivers – flowing right out of the glacier we hiked to.
"It's a different thing to actually see the impact of climate change, to see so much geology in action. You can see where glaciers are retreating, how fjords have been created."
The group was escorted by the Quebec-based Students On Ice program, a shipboard adventure along Baffin Island and beyond.
Students came from 10 countries, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Norway and Afghanistan.
Over nine years, the program has taken almost 1,000 students to the Arctic and Antarctica to demonstrate the effects of climate change and the areas' importance in the world's ecosystems.
Mehta was impressed to learn the role of sea ice and icebergs, which reflect sunlight to prevent the planet from warming too much.
"But when that crucial sea ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs more light and continues to accelerate climate change," he said. "It's a real domino effect."
An important part of the trip, Mehta said, was the conversation with international students.
"I was pretty wowed at what people are doing around the world," he said. "It's inspiring."
But he was also disgusted to walk to a far-flung water's edge and find an empty Mr. Clean bottle and a plastic bag from Russia.
"You're in this paradise and you find impacts from human civilization," he said. "I thought it was ridiculous that someone would throw something out without thinking where it would end up, so many miles away.
"What we do here, affects the whole planet – even the poles."
The teen was inspired by the passing parade of ice, water and animals and has written movingly of his adventure in a journal posted online from the ship at www.studentsonice.com.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Students on Ice return
from Arctic Expedition
Staff, The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa
On Sunday, August 17, 2008 there was a Welcome Home Event at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa for the students and staff of the Students on Ice Arctic Expedition that lasted from August 4 to August 17, 2008.
Two Norwegian students, Lena Silseth and Solveig Gjovik, who participated in the expedition felt upon returning to Ottawa that they had experienced something extraordinary and that the 13 days flew past too quickly. This school year they will both be studying Space Technology at Andøya High School in Norway.
Lena and Solveig said that they have learnt a lot about Norway’s influence in the Nordic regions, the consequences of climate change and the importance of protecting the poles. The motto for the expedition was “Protect the Poles. Protect the Planet.”
The Norwegian students also described the wildlife and nature, including bears, whales, birds, seals, icebergs and plant life in the arctic as one of the many high points of the expedition. The international mix of people meant that they also had the opportunity to learn about other cultures, and the girls were sad to leave their new found friends.
The leader of the expedition, Geoff Green, held a speech at the event where he said that the students’ many ideas on how to make a difference on an individual, national and international level is cause for hope. Passing the torch to protect the poles and protect the planet is one of the main themes in Students on Ice.
Two of the Canadian students talked about their experience on the expedition. They had become more inspired to find new solutions on climate issues. They also felt that they had become more motivated and in touch with nature – and that the trip had raised their awareness about important issues. After talking to the scientists and leaders and experiencing the arctic up close, the students feel that they now understand more about their own possibilities and challenges.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
High on the poles:
Canmore man finds work guiding at the extreme ends of the Earth
by Trent Edwards, Calgary Herald
Going to the world's coldest places makes Alex Taylor all warm inside.
So the Canmore resident is high on life after a two-week stint in Canada's Arctic as a zodiac boat driver and logistics expert for the Students On Ice International Polar Year Arctic Youth Expedition 2008.
While in the Arctic, Taylor, 43, used the small inflatable boat to ferry a team of scientists, polar experts, educators, artists, environmentalists and students from around the world on outings from a cruise ship to visit coastal settlements, icebergs and sea ice in and around Baffin Island, Nunavut and the northern reaches of Nunavik.
He helped expose the students to a world full of exotic wildlife -- Bowhead whales, walrus, polar bears, seals and lemmings -- as well as Inuit communities and year-round ice.
And of course, along the way he and the students, ages 13 to 20, saw firsthand the dramatic effects of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem as they cruised in fair weather past receding glaciers in Sam Ford's Fjord on Baffin Island.
"The zodiacs play a key role in our program," Taylor said when reached by satellite phone during the Aug. 2 to 17 expedition. "And there are an infinite number of logistical decisions."
This was Taylor's first trip to the Arctic, but the seasonal nature of his job as a backcountry trail project manager for Parks Canada has allowed him to spend most of the past 16 winters working as a polar guide in Antarctica.
Taylor's Antarctic career began in 1992 when he was hired by the British Antarctic Survey as a guide for a glaciology project below the continent's tallest peak, 4,897-metre Mount Vinson. A love of the polar regions' surreal landscapes, wildlife, history and experiences has had him hooked on the poles ever since.
"You get polar fever," he says. "Then you want to go back again and again."
Taylor has visited many parts of Antarctica in support of science projects for the British Antarctic Survey and the United States Antarctic Program. He has also provided technical and safety support for television and film crews in the area, such as the IMAX feature film Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure. He was even an extra in the film, which re-created Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew's epic journey to survival across the Antarctic Ocean in three small open boats.
"We all had to grow beards so we looked the part," Taylor recalls.
He says there are many similar risks in both polar regions, including violent and rapid changes in the weather. But the Arctic has one unique risk -- polar bears.
"It's a pretty big exception," admits Taylor with a chuckle. "You're most likely not to die from a penguin encounter."
But for Taylor, the chance to experience Inuit culture is well worth any risk of meeting a polar bear. No matter how many nature documentaries you see, there is no substitute for visiting the real thing. That's the only way to truly appreciate the region's spectacular beauty and its peoples' culture, he says. Taylor will always remember transporting students by zodiac to see Qikiktarjuak, a remote Inuit fishing and hunting community.
"The little kids were jumping into the boats and causing mayhem out of pure joyfulness," Taylor recalls.
Geoff Green, the Ottawa-based founder and leader of Students On Ice (studentsonice.com), said it's hard to find a person with Taylor's polar guiding resume and upbeat attitude. Green has worked with Taylor for two years on Students On Ice expeditions, and has known him for seven years.
"It's great to work with Alex, because he gets it," Green says.
By that, Green means that Taylor greatly respects the places he visits.
"He's not just here for the job," Green says. "These kind of jobs aren't very well-paying."
Taylor is a bear of a man at six-foot-one and 220 pounds. But his biggest strength is his cool logic under pressure.
"You can't mess around in these places," Green explains. "People can kill themselves if they make a mistake here."
Green adds that Taylor's positivity, joke-cracking and "good karma" don't hurt his employability.
"He's just a wonderful person. Gentle spirit, but also quite an accomplished outdoorsman."
Taylor admits you have to have a high risk tolerance, both in terms of physical danger and job insecurity, to enjoy a career like his.
"I never know what I'm going to do when I grow up," he says. "I enjoy the freedoms that come with the insecurities of not having a full-time job."
Taylor may do a lot of grunt work, but with a degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary, specializing in outdoor pursuits and geography, he's no dummy.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Taylor moved to the Rockies as soon as he finished high school to learn how to climb mountains and explore. He has been working in the Rocky Mountain National Parks for 23 years, enjoying an eclectic career that includes jobs as a wildland firefighter, wildlife technician, weather station specialist, still photographer and videographer.
Still humble, Taylor calls himself a "background player" on polar expeditions such as Students On Ice.
And he says he has always enjoyed his work with Parks Canada in the Rockies, which he says are just as special as the polar regions.
As winding as his career path has been, all of his jobs have one constant -- working in the wilderness.
But a career like Taylor's isn't something you can plan. He got his big break after a chance meeting with a polar guide while ice-climbing in the Rockies. But he says a quick search of the Internet will find you many wilderness and mountain guiding programs. And he has some advice for anyone who aspires to follow in his snowsteps.
"Get out in the outdoors and start picking up as many wilderness skills as you can," he says. "And don't be scared to take smart risks."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Students on Ice
Staff, The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa
As a part of Canada’s contribution to the International Polar Year a group of young students have participated in an arctic expedition on August 2nd to August 17th 2008. Norwegians Lena Silseth & Solveig Gjovik, both from Andøya High School, participated this year.
Students on Ice is a program founded and led by Geoff Green in which youth from Canada and around the world can participate in ship-based educational adventures to the Arctic and Antarctica.
The group travelling this August consists of 65 young students from all over the world. The students, whose backgrounds range from Canada, Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States, have spent 13 days together on a ship-based journey to Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.
Upon returning home, there will be a focus on how to get involved in youth-based environmental initiatives to continue to raise awareness and interest among youth. The goal for the expedition has been to raise global awareness about the impacts of climate change and other environmental issues facing the Arctic Regions today.
The education team uses different learning formats including lectures, workshops, small-group discussions, and hands-on activities. The planned activities include wildlife encounters, visits to remote Inuit communities and archaeological sites, as well as the opportunity to gain more insight about climate change.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Students on board
by Herb Mathisen, Northern News Services
IQALUIT - Travel in the North is fraught with unpredictability and this is not lost on the Students on Ice's 2008 Arctic Expedition director of education.
He told the 65 Northern, Canadian and international students who will be part of this year's tour of the North, "flexibility is the key," when talking about their itinerary.
The collection of 107 students, educators, artists, chaperones and dignitaries set out from Iqaluit Aug. 4 to begin a two-week Arctic expedition that would take them around south-eastern Baffin Island, up the Davis Strait past Qikiqtarjuaq, and then down to the north coast of Nunavik.
Their aim is to observe the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and how it is affecting its people.
Nunavut commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson greeted the expedition in the legislative assembly Aug. 4 and spoke in lieu of Iqaluit mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, who was stuck in Yellowknife due to bad weather.
"Welcome to Northern travel where we're usually delayed or cancelled altogether," she said.
Meekitjuk Hanson, who joined the expedition, gave a brief history of the territory and its people to the assembled visitors.
Students On Ice director of education Tim Straka said this was the 18th expedition the organization has operated in the Arctic or Antarctic since it was founded in 1999 by Geoff Green.
"We want to open peoples' eyes to the natural world," said Straka, adding daily lectures from various scientists and experts on the boat will be available to students over the course of the trip.
This will include teachings on geography, flora, fauna, Nunavut history and traditional Inuit knowledge. As well, workshops will be given on such subjects as botany and various other arts, while also giving students the chance to go out in Zodiacs to do things like plankton tows.
"The perspective we offer students, by going to remote locations, can really transform them if they are open to it," said Straka.
"We want this experience to be relevant to their lives at home."
"We want them to become ambassadors," he said, adding that many former students have gone on to organize climate change conferences or become vocal advocates for the cause.
Twenty-two students from the North will be part of the trip, which will connect southern and Northern students.
Journals written by students have been posted on the group's website.
Stan Suvissak, from Kugaruuk, wrote on Aug. 5: "I can't wait to see Pangnirtung."
He continued, "I hope to make new friends and learn a lot of things and teach other people to play Inuit games and tell a little bit of Inuit stories."
Students from nine different countries are members of the expedition.
Michaela Lurger, 17, from Austria, earned a spot on the expedition by winning a school competition of projects about the Arctic.
"I hope to change my attitude with the environment," she said.
She was also excited with the personal aspects afforded her from the experience.
"I look forward to meeting new lovely people and new friends," she said.
Nora Bales, 14, from Berkeley, California, said she believed this would be a life-changing experience.
"I want to have my views change," she said. "I want to see what's happening first hand."
Bales, making her first trip to Canada, also had her eyes set on seeing the Northern wildlife.
"I want to see a polar bear," she said.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Better than any classroom:
Canada's Arctic opens eyes of youth from around the world
by Thulasi Srikanthan, The Ottawa Citizen
Boats drifting through the mist on the melting sea ice. Fingers brushing against towering icebergs. Trekking through a deteriorating glacier.
These were some of the moments that 66 students got to experience on a one-of-a-kind trip to the far eastern reaches of Canada's Arctic. The group included students from 10 countries, including Canada, Norway and Afghanistan.
The trip, known as the Students on Ice -- International Polar Year Arctic Expedition 2008, took students to Baffin Island, Nunavut. A majority returned to Ottawa this weekend, from where they first began their trip early this month.
"Everything was a dream, to see a polar bear, a bowhead whale, an iceberg, to touch it," said one of the students,
17-year-old Lauren Law, yesterday. "When you are in an (inflatable boat), and you are cruising along, you see the waves, it's almost like a mirage, almost like a computer that is digitally making these waves."
"It's breathtaking, it's Uakallanga," said Lauren, who is from Vancouver. Uakallanga is an Inutituk word used to convey astonishment and convey the sentiment of something being "beyond words."
This trip, one of several, is the brainchild of Geoff Green, founder of Students on Ice. The nine-year-old organization offers learning expeditions to the Antarctic and the Arctic. It's believed to be the only organization in the world that takes youth to the Arctic and Antarctic every year. Since 2000, close to 1,000 high school and university students from 30 countries have taken part in Mr. Green's program.
"It changed the way I look at the poles, the planet and it connected me with nature," said 18-year-old Rohit Mehta, another student on the trip. "I used to see the Arctic as a barren land, just cold, quiet and no one there, nothing really happening. I was wrong."
Mr. Green said the purpose of the trip was to give youth a greater understanding of, and respect for, the planet and to make them realize that they can be leaders for a sustainable future.
"I am a believer that students can learn so much about science, math, history, geography and environmental issues by being in nature, and two of the greatest wilderness areas of the planet are the polar regions," said Mr. Green. "It seemed like a no-brainer that we should be taking kids to these regions and teaching them there, and making those places and the issues real and very personal.
"It's better than any classroom with four walls and a desk."
On their journey, the group visited Sam Ford Fjord, Qeqertarsuaq village and Isabella Bay. The trip focused on the effects of climate change on the Arctic region as well as the role of the area in the planet's ecosystem.
"You can sit there and do workshops and presentations and plan all these activities and events, but until you can actually see the impact caused by climate change, it doesn't mean anything," Mr. Mehta said. "What going to the Arctic taught me is that you can actually visibly see the impact."
About 75 per cent of the students' trips were funded by contributions from many sources including the government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Canadian Museum of Nature and First Air. The cost per student from Ottawa was $7,500.
Even though the trip is over, many of the students still haven't come off the high of their Arctic adventure.
"I think icebergs have to be the most amazing thing I saw, " said Mr. Mehta. "You see it on TV and it's one thing, but you see it in person, it's something else."
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Returning from adventure of a lifetime
by Hannah Sutherland, Peace Arch News
Elizabeth Steves’ Arctic excursion will come to an end today.
After two weeks exploring the Northern reaches of Canada, the Earl Marriott Secondary student will fly back to Ottawa before returning home to South Surrey.
The trip was hosted by Students On Ice, an award-winning organization that takes students on learning expeditions in the North.
With an ambition to protect the planet, Steves left the Peninsula hoping the journey will help her decide a career path within environmental science, in which she will be taking her degree in next year.
Students On Ice accepts just 65 students from around the world to travel by ship to Nunavut and learn with a team of 30 world-renowned scientists, environmentalists and polar educators for two weeks.
Steves has been making online updates of her educational adventure since embarking on it earlier this month.
The group convened Aug. 2 and 3 in Ottawa, before taking a charter flight the next day to Iqaluit, Nunavut where they explored the community and boarded the expedition vessel, the Polar Ambassador.
After exploring the Southern Baffin Island region and spotting ring and harp seals along the Cumberland Strait, the group spent most of Aug. 7 on the Sunneshine Fjord, combing beaches, exploring arctic tundra and cliff faces and hiking to the top of the fjord.
“There was a thick fog stopping our view of the water, but when we reached the top, it was a beautiful sight,” Steves said in a blog.
“Upon reaching the summit, we heard the howl of an arctic fox. All in all, it was an exciting day.”
The next day, the team sailed further north to a small Inuit hamlet called Qikaqtarjuaq, where many students made connections with the townspeople.
“About 500 people populate this community and they are very friendly,” Lauren Law writes. “The Inuit children were very captivated with our digital cameras... I gave them two bracelets that I had originally woven for myself. It was my token of appreciation from me to them for warmly accepting me into their community.”
Alexandra Polasko had a similar experience with a woman who invited her into her home to share family photos, artwork and personal treasures.
“There was no text book that could possibly explain the home’s true beauty and splendor,” Polasko writes. “Her kindness warmed my heart from the minute I started talking to her... I came as a stranger and left as a family member.”
The next day was spent exploring the Itirbilung Fjord, where Steves saw a polar bear and a group of bowhead whales.
“I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen what I saw today. I feel that what happened today has given me even more of a reason to change my community when I go home. I wish everyone I knew and everyone who supported me could feel how I feel right now, because as the days go by, I realize that sometimes words cannot give nearly enough meaning to what you experience.”
For blogs, pictures and video of the expedition, visit www.studentsonice.com/arctic2008/html/daily.html
Friday, August 15, 2008
Students on Ice
Staff, OK Radio News Briefs
Youth who are on the “Students on Ice” expedition are having an amazing journey in the Baffin Island region.
Geoff Green who is the Executive Director and Expedition Leader is also the Founder of Students on Ice.
He says as a founder he started the students program in 1999, and says the program has expanded over the years with this year’s program starting on the 2nd of August.
Green says 65 students are attending from all over the world and includes students from the Yukon, North West Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador and countries such as France, Mexico, Afganistan, Norway and the United States.
He added the purpose of the expedition program is to teach students about environmental issues, science, and history of the Arctic.
And really expose the students to many important issues with new knowledge and understanding to inspire and motivate them to make a difference in their life, to become future leaders when they return home.
Green says a team of scientists and experts are present daily and work with the students.
He added during the adventurous journey, they see polar bears, whales, icebergs and amazing sites and places.
Anne Hanson who is the Commissioner of Nunavut is one of the staff and a great person to have on board to teach the students especially about the issues of the North.
Green says students can find out about the program through the website www.studentsonice.com, which has a follow up of the journey showing journals, photos and videos.
He says the Students on Ice program is run through partnerships and a lot of the Northerners were selected through the International Polar Year Programs.
Scholarships from the Canadian Government helped Labrador and Nunavik students to take part.
He also added that Makivik Corporation played a big role by sponsoring 7 students to participate this year.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Sault student navigates Arctic:
Gets first-hand look at climate change
by Corina Milic, The Sault Star
Student-filled Zodiac boats whiz toward a drifting glacier, its sculpted tips like whipped cream topping a massive oceanic sundae.
More than 60 youth from 10 countries, including a Sault Ste. Marie teen, are navigating Arctic waters, glacial valleys and fjords on day 12 of a two week ship journey into what expedition leader Geoff Green calls "the planet's early-warning system for climate change."
Green's non-profit organization, Students on Ice, regularly takes international high schoolers to the "cornerstones of the earth's ecosystem," the Arctic and Antarctica.
Along for this summer's ride off Baffin Island's east coast are polar scientists, educators and artists who take students out of the classroom and onto the permafrost for concrete lessons about the environment and Inuit culture.
"Yesterday, when we were walking up a glacial valley, (the instructors) were talking about how glaciers are melting and then we were standing on one,' said Jessica Albert. "It brought the idea of global warming home much more than reading about it."
The 18-year-old spoke on a crackling satellite phone that often cut out, more than 2,000 kilometres north of her home in Sault Ste. Marie.
Albert and her fellow travellers saw even more dramatic evidence of the changing climate when their original itinerary, including a hike to the Arctic Circle, was nixed because of possible flooding in Auyuittuq National Park.
A huge chunk of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf above Ellesmere Island collapsed recently and the entire park was evacuated.
"Yet another example of students seeing climate change right before their eyes," said Green, who has led over 100 polar expeditions and was named one of Canada's 'top 40 under 40' in 2005.
Green was a school teacher before creating Students on Ice. Now, he said, his two passions -- teaching and adventure travel -- have collided.
Some students applied to the program directly, others through Students on Ice partner organizations. The amount each participant pays varies; Albert's trip cost her more than $7,000, almost half of which she was able to fund-raise.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
From the Arctic to the Office:
Seeing the "Urgent Truth" of Global Warming
by Zoë Caron, Staff, Students on Ice, Published in The Daily Green
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.
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. I’ve 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 Canada’s 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 organization’s 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. It’s everything I’ve 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 parent’s 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. I’ve only just caught a glimpse, and I know it’s 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 – that’s one piece of the itinerary that won’t be shaken.
The Arctic 2008 journey can be followed online at http://www.studentsonice.com/arctic2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Park reopened to tourists
by Carolyn Sloan, Northern News Services
PANNIQTUUQ/PANGNIRTUNG - After a reassuring report from glaciation and hydrology experts, Parks Canada reopened Auyuittuq National Park's Akshayuk pass, from Overlord to Windy Lake, on Friday.
The section was closed and 21 people were evacuated from the area on July 28 when severe erosion around Crater Lake posed the threat of flash flooding.
Last week, park staff recruited Eric Mattson, chair of geology and glaciation at Nipissing University, from a nearby Students on Ice learning expedition. A expert in Canadian glaciers, Mattson flew over the park on a coastguard helicopter Aug. 3. Staff were also able to obtain the expertise of hydrologist Megan Leach, who also happened to be in the area.
The experts determined the area around Crater Lake has now stabilized, though there are other areas of the park where the erosion is cause for concern. From the aerial view, Mattson and Leach, along with park staff, also ascertained that the initial erosion was the result of the same heavy rains that caused the flash flood in Pangnirtung last June.
According to Pauline Scott, communications manager for Nunavut's national parks, two weeks of hot weather, followed by rain, caused the water level to rise at Summit Lake. The lake then released a big burst of water, which took out the bridge at Windy Lake before passing through Crater Lake.
"The water (passing) through created the initial melting of the permafrost, which created erosion ... continuing for days afterward," Scott said. "This was sort of a symptom of the earlier pulse of water."
Due to the loss of the Windy Lake bridge, visitors must choose to remain on either the east side or west side of the Weasel River since there is no way to safely cross the Weasel River.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Lab. West teen takes off to Iqaluit for two-week tour Exploring the Arctic
by Pam Morrissey, The Aurora
Megan Harrington is trading in her summer shorts for an amazing Arctic adventure.
The 13-year-old drama student from Labrador West headed to Iqaluit this weekend to participate in the Students on Ice Arctic Expedition as part of two-week international tour of Baffin Island and Nunavik.
"My drama teacher told me about it," Megan explained how she found out about the boat expedition. "She told me about it and I applied in June. I found out I was chosen about two days later when my teacher called and told me. I was practically speechless."
According to the expedition's website, the Students on Ice - International Polar Year Arctic Youth Expedition 2008 will involve 65 international students, aged 13-20, as well as a team of 30 scientists, polar experts, educators, artists and environmentalists. The team includes 22 northern aboriginal youth, as well as participants from Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, Norway, the United Kingdom, Monaco, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Megan was one of 20 aboriginal students across Canada to receive a scholarship for the expedition and was bursting with excitement before she left last week.
"We're going to have lectures and workshops; they have their own microscope on the boat, so we can take plants from the land that we go on," she said. "I expect to see a lot of walruses and polar bears, maybe some orcas, seals and northern seabirds."
She noted Geoff Green started the Students on Ice expeditions in 1999 to provide students around the world with educational opportunities in the Arctic and Antarctic to help them understand and respect the planet.
According to Mary Jo Harrington, Megan's mother, it usually costs upwards of $8,000 to go on the trip, but Megan only had to pay for her equipment, spending money and flight to Ottawa.
She explained the trip isn't a vacation - it's a learning experience - and she's so happy her daughter will get to enjoy such a wonderful life lesson. She will also to have give presentations on her trip when she returns home and her mom feels it'll be an unforgettable event in Megan's life.
Megan said she's looking forward to meeting lots of new friends and although she doesn't think she'll be homesick - she's spent many weeks away at Army cadet camp - she isn't sure what it will be like to sleep on a boat.
More than anything though, Megan can't wait to see what the Arctic has to offer.
"I hope to learn how I can protect the world and how we effect the Arctic," she said thoughtfully. "I like to learn about the environment and I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Anyone looking for information on Students on Ice or wanting to track Megan's journey through the Arctic can follow the expedition's progress by visiting www.studentsonice.com.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Un carnet de voyage en Arctique
Staff, Métro Montréal
Dans le cadre du projet Students on Ice, du 2 au 17 août, une soixantaine de jeunes étudiants âgés de 13 à 20 ans s'embarquent pour un voyage à l’autre bout du monde, en Arctique. Ils voudront appuyer la protection de l’Arctique et enrichir leur perspective globale sur notre planète, ses merveilles et ses enjeux présents et futurs.
Geoff Green, aventurier et explorateur canadien, mènera cette expédition qui rassemble plus d’une trentaine de scientifiques et soixante étudiants, dont vingt jeunes des Premières Nations ainsi que des participants provenant de divers pays : Afghanistan, Émirats Arabes Unis, Autriche, Norvège, Royaume-Uni, Monaco, Australie, Nouvelle-Zélande, Mexique, États-Unis et Canada. Cette expédition aura lieu dans le sud de l’île de Baffin, au Nunavut et dans le nord du Nunavik.
Au fil des jours, découvrez le journal de bord de nos aventuriers quotidiennement sur le site Internet de Métro.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Into the Arctic with Students on Ice
by Rhian Salmon, IPY International Programme Office
I am traveling from Toronto to Ottawa and the train has just started moving. I’m passing a familiar skyline of the CN Tower, downtown, the Don Valley, and hopefully soon I’ll see Lake Ontario on my right. I lived in Toronto for 5 years and though I haven’t been back often, the scenery remains a home from home.
Ottawa will be all new to me, and I’m glad to have grounded myself in the familiar for my first jet-lagged evening. I will be met by someone from Students On Ice at the train station, and presumably a handful of soon-to-be-friends also arriving on this route. (The heavens have opened, so much for my scenic train journey.)
How do I feel? Excited, apprehensive, confident, intrigued, honoured, calm. I love the feeling before an adventure. That space which occurs after the last minute frenzy and packing of bags, and before the Next Thing on the Agenda. In this case, an IPY Arctic expedition with Students on Ice. But right now is magic time: no-one knows where I am, how to find me, what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I’m thinking. Whatever is in my bags will have to make do, whichever letters never got sent will have to wait until I return home, whatever I shall need to prepare has yet to be finalised. I can float.
I first heard about Students on Ice and their expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic in 2005, on the Isle of South Georgia, as I was returning from Antarctica. Not long after, I wrote to the Executive Director asking for a job. He didn’t have one, but we kept in touch. A year after that I started working for IPY, and two more years on, here I am. Not working for them, but with them, as part of the Education Team. I am therefore really looking forward to this — a dream combination of polar regions, education, science, art, and landings. Plus, this being the Arctic rather than Antarctic, a number of students and leaders from northern communities will be joining the trip and we will be learning lots about life in the North. Having spent considerably more time in the Antarctic than the Arctic, this is for me one of the most interesting aspects of the trip… and one of the most important differences between the two Polar Regions.
We spend a lot of time in IPY “raising awareness about the Polar Regions” and can rattle off the key issues as “Melting snow and ice, Global-local linkages, Neighbours in the North, New frontiers of science, and Making science accessible”. Each of these can be expanded on in at least a 45 minute lecture, but you get the gist from the catch-phrase. Perhaps we should also be highlighting the differences between the polar regions under each topic — the Arctic is an ocean, has polar bears, has been populated by self-sustaining communities for thousands of years, and is currently experiencing incredibly rapid change in the form of melting sea ice, permafrost, and glaciers that in turn have a huge impact on the local people and ecosystems. The Antarctic is land mostly covered by ice, has penguins, has had small, highly dependent scientific communities living there temporarily for about 50 years, and is currently warming a lot around the peninsula and experiencing many other changes to the physical environment across the continent. 90% of all the world’s ice, and 70% of all the world’s fresh water is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheets and if they melted the world, or at least humans, would experience catastrophic change. Still, the Greenland ice sheet represents one eighth of the Earth’s total ice-mass and, if it were to break up and melt, which it appears to be doing, sea levela would increase by more than seven meters. Plenty of food for thought.
In order to tackle these issues we need to understand the concepts of Change in the Polar Regions, we need to appreciate the implications physically, culturally, economically, and we need to develop ways to both mitigate and adapt. This takes hard work and commitment now, but also will take time. And time means educating, preparing, and equipping the next generation to the absolutely best of our ability to take these ideas further, and beyond our current capacity. It is my understanding that this is the principle at the core of Students on Ice.. so I’m both interested, intrigued, and excited to see what the reality will be like.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Estudiante del FWISD en expedición al ártico
Staff, La Estrella En Casa
FORT WORTH — Lo más probable es que las vacaciones de verano de Sergio Samora sean únicas entre sus compañeros de onceavo grado de la secundaria Diamond Hill, del Fort Worth ISD, pues verá cosas que la mayoría de la gente no solamente no las ve, sino que ni siquiera sabe que existen: Irá a una expedición al Círculo Ártico.
La aventura de Sergio Samora, informó el distrito escolar en un comunicado, está patrocinada por Students on Ice (Estudiantes en el hielo). Los fondos del viaje son a través de una beca y éste se llevará a cabo entre el 2 y el 17 de agosto.
Los estudiantes explorarán en barco el sur de la isla Baffin, Nunavut y el norte de Nunavik.
Sesenta estudiantes internacionales en edades entre 12 y 20 años están involucrados, así como un equipo de 30 científicos, expertos polares, educadores, artistas y ambientalistas.
El equipo incluye 20 jóvenes nativos del norte, así como participantes de Afganistán, Emiratos Unidos de Arabia, Austria, Noruega, Reino Unido, Mónaco, Nueva Zelanda, México, Estados Unidos y Canadá, se informó en el comunicado.
Durante la expedición, los participantes van a ser testigos de la vida en el ártico, incluyendo ballenas, osos polares, bueyes almiscleros, y aves marinas; van a visitar las comunidades del norte; van a aprender sobre los efectos del cambio del clima del ecosistema Ártico y las ciencias y el conocimiento de las perspectivas tradicionales; y van a participar en actividades manuales educativas y de investigación.
“No puedo creer que en realidad voy a ir al Círculo Ártico”, dijo Samora. “Va a ser grandioso, algo de lo que jamás hubiera podido formar parte” sin la beca.
Para estar actualizado en el itinerario de la expedición se puede ingresar al sitio web de Students on Ice en http://studentsonice.com.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
EPHS sophomore Max Liddle boards the ‘Polar Express’ to study global warming in the Arctic
‘Ice, Ice, Baby’
by Juley Harvey, Estes Park Trail Gazette
Some students may be having a cool summer, but Max Liddle’s is the coolest ever.
The Estes Park High School sophomore is one of about 60 international students aged 13 to 20 boarding the ship Polar Ambassador in Canada on August 4, to spend two weeks cruising among the fjords of the Arctic and cavorting with polar bears, walrus and whales, oh my.
As a member of the Students on Ice – International Polar Year Arctic Expedition, he will interact with 30 world-renowned scientists and environmentalists onboard the ship, as well as students from around the world, observing and analyzing firsthand the climate changes that scientists warn are wreaking havoc with the planet.
“Students on Ice is an award-winning organization that offers unique learning expeditions to the Antarctic and the Arctic,” their Web site says. “Our mandate is to provide students from around the world with inspiring educational opportunities at the ends of our earth, and in doing so, help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet."
“The Students on Ice-International Polar Year Arctic Expedition is the most comprehensive Arctic expedition for youth ever undertaken. It will serve as a powerful and unique international platform to create change, inspire, educate, give cause for hope and raise awareness globally about the impacts of climate change and other environmental issues facing the Arctic regions,” according to the Web site.
The cost is a little chilly, too — $7,500 Canadian. Liddle, however, won a $10,000 scholarship that covers it. He leaves August 2 for Canada, earmuffs and all.
It has happened rather quickly, unlike the climate change, which scientists say has been brewing for awhile.
After hearing about the Arctic expedition in early July from an EPHS staff member who is Canadian, Liddle applied over the weekend of July 12, and was accepted on one of the scholarships available on July 14. During that time, he had submitted an application, three letters of recommendation — from teachers and employers — and three essays regarding his views on the environment and how this expedition would help him educate decision-makers and community members on the changes occurring. He faxed his application on Sunday, and got his “go” answer the next day.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “It’s amazing. There are some really cool videos on the (Students On Ice) Web site.”
The short notice of acceptance required a determined effort working on a mountain of paperwork. One of the nail-biters was applying to Loveland for a passport (required for travel across the border). The passport arrived July 18, creating some sweat as they waited for it.
“It was a big worry. I didn’t know whether it would be here in time. It was a relief to get it,” he said.
Next, a clothing shopping expedition was planned. (Arctic weather varies from –10 degrees F. to 10 degrees F., so there won’t be any balmy breezes on this cruise.) After that, his family had to arrange to get some Canadian money. Liddle plans to spend it in Inuit villages for art.
The student explorers will be based on a ship, which is fully equipped for ice passages, for two weeks. They will make frequent excursions off the large ship onto inflatable Zodiac boats, to cruise around the coastline, dock and hike.
“We’ll be doing a lot of observing,” he said.
He also will be providing a daily blog on his adventures. See www.studentsonice.com/arctic2008/.
This is an ice king’s dream come true.
“We’ll be analyzing stuff in the field with other scientists,” he said. “We’ll do microscope work. There are lecture halls on the ship. We’ll observe wildlife and maybe take core samples of ice, do bird banding and study the nesting and feeding habits,” he said.
Of particular interest to him are the polar bears and the orca whales.
“Wildlife is my biggest thing,” he said. “We’ll learn about how the climate change is affecting their lives. We’ll see it firsthand and analyze the glaciers and the wildlife.”
Liddle has loved science since the sixth grade. It’s his favorite subject. He’s studied the environment and sustainability and calls this expedition the “perfect opportunity.”
“I have interests in biology and climate change and sustainability. These are career possibilities,” he said.
Although he will have his digital camera to accompany him and the ship’s computer on which to blog, he will be pretty much cut off from the technological world.
“There’s no technology on this trip,” he said. “You can only bring a camera. It’s a total disconnection from the technological world. You can absorb more."
“It’s definitely an expedition,” he said. “We’ll be out of reach for a couple of weeks.”
How does his mom feel about that?
She’s “thrilled he gets to go,” she said. “We’re used to wilderness areas and being out of touch.”
Liddle expressed amazement that the opportunity “kind of fell in my lap.”
“It renews your hope that anything’s possible, anything can happen,” his mother said.
The student explorer said he expects that finding out what the international students are thinking will probably be a big surprise.
“I’m really excited to get their different points of view,” he said.
Liddle said the students will also get to interact with the captain and the crew.
“The bridge is open all day,” he said. “They’ll talk to you. We’ll be doing some ice navigation, plowing through some ice.”
Liddle said it would be “different” being on a ship.
“It’s totally different than anything I’m used to,” he said. “It’s a really big ship.”
And yes, the students are informed about the possibility of being seasick.
“They gave us a gear list, and once we’re aboard, they’ll give us a safety talk,” he said.
He expects to bring back to the warmer climes a deeper understanding of global warming and climate change from the Arctic scientific research and from the scientists from many countries who are participating.
After he returns, he will give a PowerPoint presentation to the high school on his experience, and perhaps to his dojo, where he takes karate, as well as possibly to the community.
“I’m going to take a ton of photos and notes,” he said.
Liddle looks forward to making international friendships as well as to the participation in the International Polar Year research — both of which he expects will have lasting impacts.
According to studentsonice.com, this summer’s expedition has the “potential to create change, inspire, educate and give cause for hope.”
Included in activities are:
• Discussions of development in the North, such as drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), uranium development in Nanvik and the need for a conservation ethic.
• Focusing on the role of the Arctic as a cornerstone of the planet’s ecosystem.
• Working with and learning from the local Inuit people to explore the Arctic’s influence on Canadian identity.
• Letting the youth voice be heard — around the world.
Key Arctic environmental study issues will be:
• The climate is now warming much more rapidly and much larger changes are projected.
• Arctic warming and its consequences have worldwide implications.
• Arctic vegetation zones are very likely to shift, causing wide-ranging impacts.
• Animal species’ diversity, ranges and distribution will change.
• Many coastal communities and facilities face increasing exposure to storms.
• Reduced sea ice is very likely to increase marine transport and access to resources.
• Thawing ground will disrupt transportation, buildings and other infrastructure.
• Indigenous communities are facing major economic and cultural impacts.
Dr. Edward O.Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning environmentalist and professor emeritus at Harvard University, had this to say about the expeditions: “The polar regions have risen to the top of environmental concerns….holding a large fraction of Earth’s fresh water…these remote parts of the world have a great importance for the generations immediately ahead. I’m glad the Students On Ice program is leading in the kind of environmental education most needed.”
A former expedition alumna, also quoted on the Student on Ice Web site, said, “This whole experience has made me want to change the life I am living and be proud of our earth. I have never been more shocked, inspired, altered or touched by anything else I have ever experienced.”
Justin Trudeau, an education, environment and youth advocate, said, “…The program is a recipe for transformation: it combines exciting adventure, important cultural exposure and personal development.”
It is not just another cool trip, according to the Web site. Students are encouraged to “listen to the land; to ‘feel’ these natural places and, in turn, explore how we as humans feel when immersed in such places. Ultimately, our goal is for students to experience a transformative connection with Nature — a connection that changes the way they understand and act in this world.
“The world is a global ecosystem in which all natural and human systems are interconnected. Humans are part of nature and bound by the laws of the natural world. However, in today’s mechanistic, consumer-oriented world, our lifestyles have led to a disconnection with nature. We are often unaware or apathetic to where our most basic needs come from — food, clothing, shelter. Our over-consumptive practices have led to resource depletion, atmospheric pollution, diminishing biodiversity, and most commonly discussed in the media, climate change. As a global society, we need to move towards living more sustainably. Today’s youth have the opportunity to lead the way…..Youth have an opportunity to establish sustainable livelihoods and make informed ecological-based choices early in their lives. The choices they make have a ripple effect and the action youth takes does make a difference,” the Web site said.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme), climate change is a shift in long-term average weather patterns, which can include changes in temperature and precipitation amounts. The international scientific community agrees significant change has occurred in global climate recently, particularly in the polar areas, caused mostly by the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and industrial processes. Greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are emitted by these processes.
The increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide has resulted in changes to our climate and a warming trend, according to recent reports from the IPCC. In a May 2007 report, it indicated that 11 of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest years since 1850.
The report also concluded that:
• Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures is very likely due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations from human activity.
• For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2 degrees C per decade is projected globally. Projections for the rest of the century depend largely on the development path taken.
• Average Arctic temperatures increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years….This warming is affecting biological systems resulting in earlier blooming, earlier bird migration and earlier laying of eggs. Lakes and rivers in many regions are warming.
• Global average sea level has risen, as well as average temperature of oceans. Rising water temperatures are causing shifts in ranges and number of algae, plankton and fish in high-latitude oceans, increases in algae and zooplankton abundance in high-latitude and altitude lakes and range changes and earlier migrations of fish in rivers.
Other changes noted include:
• Widespread changes in ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather — including drought, heavy precipitation, heat waves and intensity of tropical cyclones.
• Changes are directly impacting human beings. Earlier spring planting of crops and forest disturbance by fire and pests have been recorded in the northern hemisphere. Health issues include heat-related mortality rise in Europe; infectious diseases and allergenic pollens increase in some areas.
EarthWatch, a global volunteer organization to engage people worldwide in scientific field research alongside leading field scientists and researchers, said, “Our research projects in the Arctic and on the coral reefs of the Bahamas leave no question that global climate change is a reality to contend with now….Climate affects the distribution, diversity and abundance of species, the pattern of habitats and ecosystem dynamics. It also shapes human responses to the environment, which ultimately influence economics and social patterns. A sustainable future depends on everyone developing a better understanding of how climate change will affect vulnerable species, habitats and the ecosystem services that support human life. The time for action is now.”
Students On Ice will include looking at the “political interference in the Arctic (that) was largely fueled by a desire for resources.”
The Arctic region’s name comes from the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. If there were a mascot for the region, it would be the polar bear. And the polar bears are shrinking in size and number.
“…Global warming is the suspected cause of shortened winters and earlier sea ice melting,” according to the Students On Ice Web site. “The region’s polar bears are losing weight, are having fewer offspring and are approaching a dangerous point in terms of survival.”
The experience of Liddle and his fellow Students on Ice may help not only the future of the polar bears, but also that of the planet.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008
Jessica Albert heads north, way north
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by Brian Kelly, The Sault Star
What started as a whim has ended up as something pretty big in Jessica Albert's life.
The White Pines attended an information session about Students on Ice Arctic Expedition late last year "for something to do".
But when the Grade 12 student discovered many of the program's concerns tied in with what she was learning in an environmental studies class she was taking, her interest was piqued.
"It just really got me interested," said Albert.
Spurred on by encouraging words from the presenter, she decided to apply.
Her two-week adventure begins Aug. 2.
Albert, 18, will join more than 70 other international students aged 14 to 19. They'll be accompanied by 30 scientists, environmentalists and polar educators, the trip's website said.
The group's itinerary includes exploring Baffin Island, Nunavut and northern Nunavik. Events include wildlife identification and observations, scientific research and shore walks. Travel is on the expedition vessel, Polar Ambassador.
Albert wants to learn how to minimize how much of the Earth's resources she uses to survive.
She hopes her example can inspire others to consider, and reduce, how much they consume too.
"It's really hard to get the message out to everyone," said Albert.
"I think if everyone took small steps, then it could really bring everyone's (ecological) footprint down by a lot."
Albert's interest in the environment is long-standing thanks to kayaking and camping trips with her family. She wants to study outdoor recreation and leisure at Fleming College in Peterborough this fall. The environmental studies course at White Pines, taught by Kevin Magill, further stoked her interest in the planet.
"It just shows me different issues, even around the world, that are going on right now," she said.
"It's not just in our area. It's everywhere. (Magill) is really good. He really knows what he's talking about. He's really passionate about it. That makes his students want to do good in that class."
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Hannah Sutherland, Peace Arch News
Elizabeth Steves is trying to raise enough money to go and study in the Arctic.
Elizabeth Steves was in physics class when she got the call.
She had already applied to Students On Ice, an award-winning organization that takes students on learning expeditions to the Arctic, but hadn’t yet heard if she had been accepted for a voyage. That was until Feb. 26, when her cellphone went off in class.
“Everything stopped and I was just elated,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”
Steves, an Earl Marriott Secondary graduate, had her heart set on learning in the Arctic since hearing about the program from her science teacher, Sue Hellman, at the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre.
The 19-year-old was attending the school to upgrade her biology mark before college.
While she was there, she took it upon herself to make some environmentally friendly changes.
An employee of Choices Recycling Centre at the time, Steves was unsatisfied with the school’s recycling program. She implemented a system that keeps all drink containers, newspapers and other paper products from the garbage. She continues to visit the school regularly, and personally takes its recycling to the centre at Choices.
“She’s really the one who continues it,” Hellman said. “She really is our recycling person and it’s completely at her instigation.”
After noticing Steves’ ambition to protect the planet, Hellman suggested she look into Students on Ice.
“It became clear she was reaching towards something that would enable her to be of use in the world and make a difference,” Hellmansaid.
The organization accepts just 75 students, age 14 to 19, from around the world to travel by ship to Nunavut and learn with a team of 30 world-renowned scientists, environmentalists and polar educators for two weeks.
Steves missed the deadline for last year’s expedition, but has been accepted to attend this August.
She hopes the experience will help her decide on a career path within environmental science, which she plans on gaining her degree in next year at Langara College.
“I want to hear these people’s experiences. I want to soak up as much information as I can,” she said. “These opportunities do not come around very often.”
The ship-based journey, which explores Baffin Island and the northern reaches of Nunavik, in northern Quebec, is meant to raise awareness about climate change and other environmental issues the Arctic faces.
It’s an experience Steves doesn’t want to miss.
“The glaciers are melting at a (rapid) rate. Who knows how long they’re going to be around for?
“It will also be neat to meet other students who are into like-minded things.”
However, because Steves is taking courses at Kwantlen University College, she is not eligible for the same government funding that high school students can receive to pay for the $7,500 trip. She is now turning to the community, and fundraising to pay the expenses. Steves is holding a barbecue dinner Friday, May 2, and Sunday, May 4, to raise funds.
The May 2 dinner (tickets, $35) will feature a Bosnian dish, and the May 4 meal (tickets, $45) will be a salmon barbecue.
The evenings will also include a silent auction – for which Steves is collecting donations – and live music.
She hopes she can share the knowledge she gains from the trip with the White Rock/South Surrey community.
“I just want to examine another ecosystem,” she said. “I want to educate my community and let them know what’s going on.”
Steves said science has been her calling since she was a young girl camping in her backyard with piles of astrology books, and can’t imagine not pursuing a career that uses the field to help the environment.
“I just want to make a difference,” she said. “There’s no other career that I would feel is satisfying.”
Hellman said it is evident that Steves is going to go a long way in life.
“I think there are a lot of people who talk the talk, but there are very few people who are passionate enough to (pick up the recycling of a school) for no reason other than she thinks its an important thing to do,” she said. “She is actually building a life that is about making a difference.”
People who choose to help her cause will benefit in the end, Hellman added.
“I think their investment will be repaid many-fold as she pays it forward.”