Four decades ago, around the same time that Greenpeace was founded, scientists began studying the Arctic sea ice from satellites. At that time, the greatest threat to humanity was the development and use of nuclear weapons. Now we know, in part due to those satellites, that it is climate change, because the most visible impact of warming is the profound decline in the extent and the volume of the Arctic sea ice.
As those brave founders sailed out to the unknown to take action to stop American nuclear testing, the Arctic Sunrise and its crew have been sailing out to the Arctic pack ice to study the relatively unknown dynamics of sea ice thickness. If you can say that organizations have their own DNA, sailing would be an essential part of ours, and the urge to take people into the unknown parts of our world to promote their protection would be another.
On September 15, we woke up to see the the black board in the ship’s mess wishing us a "Happy Birthday," and we celebrated our organisation's 40th birthday with cake baked by our own polar bear safetyman. I think the best chocolate cake in the world is the one you eat at 80 degrees north, inside a warm ship looking out on what I think is the most stunning place on our planet. As one of my fellow sailors said, ‘There’s not much out there more than ice and more ice and some occasional creatures but nonetheless it has changed the way I understand our Earth.’
As the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that this year has observed the 2nd lowest extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean since satellite record began, we could feel how the local weather conditions here are beginning to change as winter sets in. For example, the Arctic Ocean is starting to freeze again. During our first weeks in the ice we had temperatures as high as plus 5 Celsius, when we returned to the ice yesterday after a quick trip to Svalbard the temperatures are now as low as minus 8 and it is getting colder. The colder and less humid air, together with little wind, makes visibility very good and the vastness of this beautiful landscape around us become clear.
It saddens me to think that within two decades I might stand on the bridge of another Greenpeace ship at the same longitude and latitude and around me there will only be water. It’s almost impossible to grasp. By then the Arctic ocean could very well be similar to the Baltic ocean where I grew up, which is covered in ice in the winter and totally open water in the summer. It also makes me angry thinking about how governments and corporations are preparing to exploit the ice-free waters of the Arctic as a new business opportunity. The hypocrisy of the Arctic countries’ politicians one day presenting alarming scientific reports about the state of this fragile region and calling for action, whilst the next day going into meetings with business leaders and giving away licenses to drill for more oil, do industrial fishing and mining further north than ever before. It’s time to take a stand.
The Arctic ocean is not for sale!