My first time in Greenland will always be associated with a first for Greenland too.
In mid-August 2021, it rained on the peak of the Greenland ice sheet for the first time in recorded history. It’s likely that only a minority of people have heard or read about this. So, why is it major news? In the past 2,000 years, the temperature at the summit of the sheet has risen above freezing – the prerequisite for rain – on only nine occasions. A third of those incidents have happened in the last ten years, a decade that has seen eight of the ten warmest years ever recorded. Over those ten years, Greenland has lost more ice than in the whole of the previous century.
What happens in Greenland will not stay in Greenland: it will affect all of us around the globe.
The Greenland ice sheet contains water with the potential to raise global sea levels more than seven metres if released. If Greenland continues to melt, tens of millions of people will face severe floods every year and there will be mass migration from coastal regions by 2030.
The extremity of this event may have been devastating news for Greenland and the world as a whole, but it’s not visible and tangible right away. I often wonder how fast we would and could act if it was.
Mother Nature speaks very clearly, and so does science – and yet most people are not listening. They don’t want to hear the inconvenient truth or are simply overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge and its complexity.
What does it take to recognise the urgent need to act and to embrace the many opportunities that are right in front of us?
Active Philanthropy has been running expeditions to the Arctic since 2007. Going to Greenland to learn about climate change? Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I had the same feeling initially when I started work at Active back in 2018; since then, I have helped to get five trips off the ground and witnessed the power of these journeys. People go on them to experience the force of nature at first hand, discuss the impact of climate change with world-class scientists and, with their peers, explore solutions and form alliances. These trips help people to find focus and to galvanise their motivation, capacity, and willingness to act – and provide them with the strong support of a network that will last a lifetime.
Those who travel with us to Greenland take home not only bittersweet memories, but also clear intentions for action.
This year, I felt privileged to have been part of this learning experience myself, along with 22 inspiring female leaders. This was another first in Active’s history – a women’s only tour! I am excited and can’t wait to see what will emerge from the power of this group.
You could feel a very special energy during the whole trip and, though feelings are hard to describe with words, I’d like to share a precious memory with you. We spent one night in a remote camp facing the Eqi glacier, one of the most active glaciers in Greenland. One hour of our time there was dedicated to a date alone with nature. Just us and nature’s pure and raw beauty. I lay down on a huge mossy rock. The steady sound of water kissing the shore, interrupted by glacier calving that sounded like thunder, gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. It was almost like hearing a constant alarm ticking. When I opened my eyes, the clouds had formed a heart.
Each of us may experience such personal moments in all sorts of different places. Let them sink in and give them space. They create an irrepressible power and an unbelievable desire for change.
Nature is kind and gentle, and so should we be. We humans have brought the planet to the brink, and it’s up to us now to bring people and planet back from it, and into balance.
When will we finally start listening to these increasingly urgent messages and begin to focus on what we can and must do?