Eric Larsen (SCA ‘93, Kenai Fjords NWR) recently completed an unprecedented trek to the South Pole, North Pole and summit of Mount Everest in a continuous 365-day period. The Minnesota native journeyed to what he calls “the front lines of global warming” to showcase humans’ impact on the “last great frozen places” and urge action to combat climate change. Hands On recently asked him about his Save the Poles Expedition and ongoing mission…
You could have measured rising sea levels at some tropical island to call attention to climate change -- why take the extreme (and extremely cold) route?
I would love to go to some tropical island. However, I have always loved cold places and enjoy the physical and mental challenges of traveling in the cold. Most importantly, the polar regions and Everest are where some of the most dramatic changes are happening right now.
They are also perhaps the three least-visible locations on Earth. Wasn't there an easier way to illustrate your case?
I wanted to add a human story to these places in a boots on the ground, grass roots manner. And because they are so distant to most people, the issue of climate change seems less relevant to many people even though it stands to be one of the defining issues of our time.
Climate change remains a topic of great debate; what evidence have you seen that ought to convince the skeptics?
First of all, either you believe in the fundamental principles of science or you don't. The principles that are used to describe gravity also are used to describe a human-caused warming of the planet. As far as specific evidence: thinner ice at the North Pole and more open water, unusual weather patterns in Antarctica, retreating glaciers in the Himalayas, the list goes on and on.
If you could choose one personal moment, one photo-in-your-mind to make your case, what would it be?
The Arctic Ocean. On my way to the North Pole, we continued to see the character of ice so different than what it was even four years ago. The ice is much, much thinner now.
What contemporary figure do you most admire and why? What historic figure?
Today there are many people I admire and respect. Most use their notoriety or talent for a greater good. Historically, I've always been fascinated by the explorers of the past: Shackleton, Amundsen, Peary.
You are reaching out to young people in particular: why? What do you want them to do and what can they change?
I have been involved in education for many years and realize that change often has to come from younger generations. More than anything, my goal is to really educate people about these places.
How did your SCA experience impact you in your younger days and how has it affected your life's course?
My SCA experience was probably one of the biggest turning points of my life. I realized that there was a whole big world out there just waiting to be discovered and if I worked hard I would be able to see it. I also learned that stewardship of our planet could come in many forms.
Twenty five years from now, what do you hope to look back on as your greatest accomplishment?
I hope that people were able to use my story to gain a better appreciation of the world around us and feel empowered to protect our planet for future generations.
That said, would you recommend anyone invest today in seaside property in Miami?
Definitely not. I think we all need to invest in renewable energy.
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