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2041: Encouraging Young Ambassadors for Climate Change

by Donna Reynolds

The year 2022 marks only 19 years to go until the Antarctic Treaty – which demands the international protection of the continent from further human impact and prevents the exploitation of its resources – expires. Antarctica belongs to no country and currently makes up 90% of earth ice and roughly 70% of our freshwater.

The rise in sea level alone that would come from the Antarctic ice melting would lead to unimaginable changes to our coastal cities, populations and the world, and the effects of climate change are becoming more and more visible there. Looking to Antarctica gives us a sense of the urgency that surrounds the need for climate action – if we don’t take action today, there will be nothing to stop the pillaging and destruction of Antarctica tomorrow. Several organizations and individuals are making it their mission to create awareness about the Antarctic Treaty and the need to protect this magnificent continent.

One such individual is adventurer and explorer Robert Swan (O.B.E.) – the first person in history to walk to both the North and South Poles. On his expeditions, Swan experienced the effects of climate change and environmental damage on the Polar icecaps, and his lifetime goal became to work to preserve Antarctica as the "last great wilderness" on Earth. He founded the 2041 Foundation – named after the year the Antarctic Treaty can be renegotiated – with a 50-year mission to help protect Antarctica from climate change.

Through his expeditions and lectures, Swan's main goals are to educate, engage and inspire the youth – the next generation of leaders – to take responsibility, live and work sustainably, and take action now in the development of policies future technologies. His story, though extreme, is incredibly inspiring and highlights what our generation is capable of when we combine passion with determination. He demonstrates that individuals have the power to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals through perseverance, determination and commitment.

Those who participate in Swan’s world-renowned expeditions become “Ambassadors for the Antarctic”, charged with making a stand in the fight against anthropogenic climate change using the personal and professional networks that they develop during and after the expedition itself. The 2041 Mission sends a clear message about the need to inspire and engage the youth (as well as politicians and business leaders) to take action in the fight against climate change. Similarly, it is vital that Africa – the continent with the highest proportion of young in the total population – encourage and enable its youth to be ambassadors of climate change and sustainability. For sustainable development to become a priority, particularly in developing countries, our prime objective needs to be eradicating poverty – the greatest global challenge facing the world today. Eradicating poverty involves improving access to sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources and empowering people living in poverty and their organizations. It is, therefore, clear that educating, engaging and empowering the youth and next generation of leaders to take responsibility, to live and work sustainably, and to take action now, will not only enable them to become ambassadors for climate change but will also lead to significant progress in eradicating poverty.

In the words of Swan's son, Barney, "Let us design a future we are proud of. Lead by example. Protect and regenerate our ecosystems. Use technology to create a positive impact. Educate and accelerate. Clean up some trash."


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