The Arctic – the beauty and the beast

This is a longer post than I usually post because I’m writing this in a special, precious place. I encourage you to take the time to enjoy the “journey” of this post.

I’ve also included some photos I snapped along the way. It’s a photographer’s paradise!

The Beauty

ROD_7659Have you ever ventured beyond the 80th° latitude – your view …..floating sheet ice in all directions. Your ship nudging closer to Santa’s front door….just a little to the north.

The Arctic ….. a vast ocean of sea and ice….. the earth’s bald patch at the crown of its head. Devoid of land – the polar landscape is a bowl surrounded by the northern reaches of Europe, Alaska, Russia and Greenland. Like a crucible held in the uplifted hands of foreign nations.

A bowl with a lid that resembles a snow covered skullcap made of ice that expands and recedes to the pulse of the seasons.

Its biodiversity moulded to that rhythm.

It’s summer so no “golden hour” for photographers. Twenty four hours of sunlight. At about midnight the sun sets and immediately rises as it drops to its lowest point in the sky – well above the horizon – and a new day of sunshine begins.

I’m on board the Akademic Serge Vavilov a Russian ice breaker north of Svalbard. spitsbergen

Why?
Why not!
Last year I visited Antarctica. I must write about that experience some time.

I’m in polar bear territory.

…. the seas and the edges of the surrounding continents, home to a myriad of wildlife. In past days Wally the walrus and his mates kept appearing every time we sight land. (photo)

Seals pop up any time any place. Birds ROD_7432 on impossibly narrow cliff ledges and swoop in clouds as we potter past visiting fjords cut by glaciers in a time past.

Reaching solid ice we turn south again. The ice-bound yacht ahead left for others to rescue.

Back south to the fjords and tundra, Wally, the birds and all their friends and foe.

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The Beast

Last night I attended a presentation on climate change. A scientific presentation putting the case(s) for and against the impact of man on the rate of increase in the earth’s temperature. Then we explored the consequences of higher temperatures for man and beast alike ……. whether the rate of increase is contributed to by man, or not.

The polar regions (Antarctica and the Arctic) attract and absorb global heat via water currents. They act as the earth’s heat sink…. protecting us from the extremes of rising temperatures. But at what cost? They can’t continue playing protector and survive. The polar regions are already changing rapidly. And it isn’t good news.

ROD_8358The extinction of many existing species, including the polar bear, is easily predictable as their environment changes faster than they can evolve to adapt. Like putting an express-way through a koala habitat, greenhouse gases are driving a stake through the heart of our polar caps.

The presentation ended with a rhetorical question

“Will changes to our planet including our food and water resources in coming centuries place man on the list destined for extinction?”

I’d never asked myself that question.

The natural projection of current changes will impact those at the top of the food chain…. where we sit.

Reflection

Only two days ago I delivered a presentation to doctors on estate planning.

Aside from technical stuff I had to convey, my primary message was that it’s never too early to start planning for the future ….as the future starts now or at the very latest – tomorrow ….. not at some unspecified point in time that lies beyond our sight or imagination.

Plans of any kind take time to formulate and implement. Start too late and a plan is likely to fail for want of lead time. Delay can even see predictable deadlines pass (dementia or death intervene) before we start the planning process or perhaps before we finish implementing it.

Why run the risk? I asked.

I was talking about family security, wealth accumulation, transition to retirement and passing on our worldly possessions to those we leave behind. Touching on asset protection, tax minimisation and management of complicated family situations such as blended families or vulnerable beneficiaries……and a bunch of related issues.

It occurred to me last night that my message has equal application to the future of our planet and those who inhabit it. ROD_8130

Start planning and managing our environment now…or lose the opportunity to have any impact on our destiny and the destiny of those we leave behind.

For the climate change doubters (and they might be right despite the science) what’s wrong with being conservative and accepting it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It seems to me the current debate isn’t about whether there is an increased rate of global warming but rather the underlying issues of – power preservation, political expediency and continued wealth generation for the worried well
VS
– sacrifices associated with taking measures to stem the rate of increase in global warming, sacrifices that would have potential short term consequences for politicians and the very small percentage of our global population who control more than 80% of our global wealth.

Why, I ask, do we…..the piggy in the middle, the vast bulk of mankind, allow ourselves to be frozen into inactivity. Caught in an absurd debate that stands in the way of progress. It made me stroke my brow in wonder.ROD_6701

I'm beginning to see our planet a bit like a large iceberg, bright, shimmering in light, sustaining life for those inhabiting it but slowly melting in a cauldron …. while those in control of power and capital continue to throw logs on the fire to keep themselves warm. ROD_7185

It’s our issue – yours and mine …. not someone else’s. I invite you to become informed and take your head out of the sand.

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Disclaimer: this blog is of a general nature for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should seek specific help for their specific circumstances.