The melting sea ice, a dodgy peach blouse and a moment I’ll never forget

Floating Ice in the Arctic Ocean. 09/08/2014 © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

I remember at school I wrote a story about the North Pole. As part of my ‘research’ I found out that sometimes the Arctic was so cold that if you threw a bucket of boiling water into the air it would freeze before it hit the ground. My 8 year old mind boggled at the possibility of temperatures that extreme.

Fast forward 30 odd years.

I’m on the Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, preparing to go out on a RHIB in the Arctic pack ice.

Long black skirt, check. Peach silk blouse, check. Blue blazer, check.

I balance precariously on the rope ladder on the side of the ship, trying to lower myself into a RHIB which is moving around a bit too much for my liking.

Thoughts that I wasn’t expecting to have in this beautiful, remote, icy part of the planet are running through my mind: is this really the correct attire for the polar regions, is peach my colour and why the hell IS the leader of the free world doing grabbing hold of my ankles?

The UN’s climate summit is approaching fast and the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful countries will descend on New York to try and get a grip on the biggest challenge of our time – climate change.

I’m in the Arctic doing my bit with 7 others of the ship’s crew. We’re dressed as some of the world’s most powerful politicians to make the point that if they don’t step up and replace pithy sound bites with meaningful action on climate change, the Arctic as we know it will be consigned to the history books. Something that was, rather than something that is.

Activists dressed as Heads of State in suits and papier-mâché heads flounder in a life raft and strand on the ice in the Arctic Ocean. The portrayed Heads of State include Barack Obama (US), Vladimir Putin (Russia), David Cameron (UK), François Hollande (France), Stephen Harper (Canada), Angela Merkel (Germany) and Narendra Modi (India). The images are taken during a Greenpeace ship tour near Svalbard earlier this month, in the lead up to the UN Climate Summit the 23th of September. 09/07/2014 © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

This point is particularly poignant today. Scientists at the NISDC have declared the 6th lowest sea ice minimum since records began. More confirmation that the Arctic ice is rapidly melting because of global warming. This doesn’t just have consequences for this unique and fragile place that’s home to 4 million people  and stunning wildlife like polar bears and walruses. It has consequences for people living tens of thousands of miles away. Because as the ice melts, and as our climate changes, extreme weather around the world could become more frequent and intense, with all of the chaos and problems that brings.

© National Snow and Ice Data Center

But here’s the thing. As I was bobbing around amongst the pack ice, dressed as one of the world’s most powerful women, taking in the incredible view of ice floe after ice floe stretching far away into the horizon, I felt hopeful because I know it’s not too late. With a global movement of millions, we can force a change of path.

I think that we, and the 6 million others who are standing with me to the Save the Arctic, might just have got here in the nick of time.

(Oh, and I was Angela Merkel by the way. In case you were wondering.)

Vicky Wyatt is the Head of Campaigns at Greenpeace UK.

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By | 2017-07-24T03:20:48+00:00 September 23rd, 2014|Environment and HR|0 Comments