Posted on April 14, 2015
I grew up in West London. I rode the 607 bus to Acton High School. Through my teens I developed a passionate interest in music and swayed between wanting to be a musician or an RAF Fighter Pilot…quite a range of aspirations. After moving to West Wales and finishing school, my interest in military life diminished, the music remained, but a new passion was born.
I had spent much of my time growing up sailing with my father around the British coast and developed a great interest in the sea, both its wonders and its dangers. At the age of 17 I enrolled in my local RNLI lifeboat crew working with an amazing group of guys. Soon after volunteering with the lifeboat service I went to an open day at Cardiff University. At the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences my parents and I listened to many talks in lecture theatres by motivated academics. The three year BSc in Marine Geography sounded right up my street. I enrolled that year. For the next three years I learnt, through essay after essay and exam upon exam how our planet works. In my final year I was intrigued by a module called ‘Global Climate Change’. Climate change had been part of the narrative of my studies, but was always something that was going on in the background that somebody else was dealing with. It wasn’t until the final years of study that things became very clear to me. My class was taken through Earth’s history. How the intricate climate system works, a system that currently provides a suitable habitat for everyone on Earth to live in. I finished at Cardiff in 2009. Although I was pretty sick of study, the realisation of the situation we are in, as provided by my studies meant I certainly wasn’t finished. I wanted to understand more, and contribute to the greatest scientific investigation in history, finding out how our planet works and what it means for us.
I began a PhD at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and what an influence this magnificent place would have. I would meet awe inspiring people, run through its hills, climb its peaks and be set on a path that would further promote my appreciation of our place on Earth.
My department, Gateway Antarctica set me on a path of adventure and understanding about the great Southern Continent. I undertook two fieldwork campaigns for my PhD research based out of New Zealand’s Scott Base. We were attempting to improve the ability of satellites to monitor the thickness of the Antarctic sea ice cover, a vast expanse of ice that grows every year in the Southern Ocean. This sea ice cover is an intrinsic part of the global climate system, improving our understanding of it would provide another small, but vital piece of the global knowledge puzzle.
I completed my PhD last year and was immediately given the opportunity to be a part of a team returning to the Antarctic. This team was looking at new ways to analyse how the giant Antarctic ice sheets are moving off the continent and into the ocean. As these mammoth masses of ice move into the ocean they can raise global sea level.
Why I’m here now.
I had long followed the general public’s perception of climate science along with the political challenge of comprehending the science and addressing the issue. I remained optimistic throughout my studies that the overwhelming scientific evidence indicating the severity of the climate crisis would be enough to catalyse action. However, as the years went by, we have remained on track to establish a very difficult future for ourselves. The evidence presented by a global community of scientists has not proven to be enough. The gap between science and society has not been bridged. We, with every passing year continue on this wholly unsustainable path. The opportunities I have worked for and been fortunate enough to receive have allowed me to build a good understanding of this issue. With this understanding this problem is now impossible to ignore.
The climate crisis is a people problem.
People are causing it.
People are ignoring it
And people will suffer because of it.
However, people will also solve it.
We just need enough people to understand that.
We are all in the privileged position of being able to rise to the greatest of challenges – avoiding environmental, social and economic disasters – safeguarding our ability to exist as a developed society.
This is not scaremongering. This is fact. If we do nothing about the climate crisis we will remove the beautifully hospitable habitat in which modern human civilization has grown. It will be replaced by a harsh and continually changing habitat in which the current way of life will be difficult in most regions and impossible in some.
So what do we do?
We send a message. A voice from our global community, a voice that shouts, that screams, “Enough is enough”. We must act. Not next year, not in five years, but now. Paris is the start of a marathon effort to shift our industries and economies onto a path that allows our civilisation to prosper. We must work together, with no finger-pointing or blame.
This effort will require everyone.
Every single person can make a difference. We must all start running in this marathon together.
This is up to us. We literally get to choose. The climate will change, but by how much is entirely our choice.