Before going back to the Arctic this summer I talked with a good friend of mine, who asked me: “Do you remember how they referred to age in old novels?”
“No,” I replied.
“Well, they’d say: ‘She’s 17 summers.’ And out of your 33 summers, this is the fourth one you are spending in the Arctic.”
So then I had to explain to him why I think it’s that important, why for the fourth summer in succession I’ll skip summer heat and swimming in the ocean and instead put on a coat, hat and gloves.
On Friday, I will be departing on board the Arctic Sunrise with a group of Girl Guides, Chinese celebrities and scientists in a month-long expedition in support of Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign.
I do this because what happens in the Arctic matters to all of us. It’s not a question of whether it will happen – it’s a question of when the Arctic Ocean will be ice free in the summer.
Crucially, the ice at the top of the world acts as the planet’s air conditioner, regulating temperatures everywhere. This means that ice-free Arctic summers will have consequences for millions of people around the world, as global weather changes will impact people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia as well as those in Europe and North America.
The Arctic deserves my persistence and it calls for all of us to show some determination; after all it was only after a seven-year campaign that Greenpeace secured a world park on the other side of the planet to protect Antarctica.
Of course there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the protection of the world’s last wild places, but what the success of the Antarctica campaign tells us is that we can win, even when the odds are stacked against us.
On a personal level I want to come back here. I can’t get enough of this amazing landscape. It’s a world beyond imagination.
Another reason I keep coming back is the ship I’m on now. She’s the smallest one of the Greenpeace ships, but like the 1st Mate said when I asked him what his favourite ship was: “This one,” he said. “This one can go more places.”
It’s true. The beautiful Arctic Sunrise is the only one of Greenpeace’s ships that can take us into the ice. And she has a certain charm, there’s no denying that.
But since the Arctic Sunrise was built, 75% of the Arctic Sea Ice has disappeared. This ship was designed to go into the ice – but climate change means that, for every year, there are fewer places for her to show her skills.
And yet, there’s still so much we don’t know about these places.
That’s why the Arctic Sunrise will be host in the coming weeks to 10 world-class independent sea ice scientists who will conduct groundbreaking scientific research in the Arctic.
Or maybe we should call it ‘icebreaking science’, as a nod to the Arctic Sunrise. After all, it’s her skills that make this journey possible.
Frida Bengtsson is an Arctic Campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic
Find out more about the passengers on board