On July 11, 2008, about 100 participants arrived in Svalbard in the high Norwegian arctic and boarded the Lindblad Expeditions ship National Geographic Endeavor for a Climate Action Summit. We came to take ourselves out of the daily rhythm of our lives and work, to experience the spare and elemental place near the top of the world, to listen to the music of vast silences, and to feel the heave and subsidence of the sea. We watched seabirds, wild reindeer, walrus, and polar bears living and moving to a different rhythm. A rhythm not of our making–until recently.
We came to see and discuss the arctic’s climate, and what we might do.
Here in these sparsely peopled arctic spaces we learned two things: that the reach of humanity extends far beyond the humanity’s normal haunts, and that as goes the arctic, so goes the world.
The climate that kept the arctic stable over ten millennia produced the same stability that has made civilization possible. Among thinning glaciers and melting seas, we came to appreciate first-hand that Earth has a fever. We came to a closer and more urgent understanding that global warming and disruption of the world’s carbon balance are serious threats. They are serious threats to civilization; to wildlife, forests, and the ocean; to freshwater; to agriculture; to justice; to the poor; to those who will yet be born–and to peace. Without great moral and political leadership, we face perhaps the greatest challenge civilization has ever faced. But we also face the greatest opportunities: to improve security, improve and diversify energy sources, and improve the path of the human endeavor, and the prospects for prosperity and peace.
C.S., Spitzbergen 7-19-08