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A journey to the poles

FEBRUARY 7, 2012
by Shannice Singletary ’14, Contributing Writer

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Eric Larsen’s presentation last Thursday on climate change spoke volumes.

Larsen, a polar explorer, told his story through a series of images that, he said, illustrated the growing impact of climate change. Many of the photos were of snowy landscapes in the most remote and desolate corners of the earth.

The presentation, “Into the Heart of Cold,” was part of the Davis Sustainability Speaker Series and was developed to raise awareness about global climate change.

Larsen used his 365-day journey across snow and ice to entertain and enlighten an audience of about 75. His journey carried him to both poles and across the Arctic, then ended at Mount Everest — all to make a point. And that point, he said, is that global warming is real.

“The reality is our climate is changing, and it’s due to people,” he said. “I traveled to prove that climate change is real. We may not see the effects, but it’s real, and global warming is human-caused.”

Larsen displayed images of himself leaping across ruptured and splitting ice, scaling glaciers, and swimming through half-frozen streams — all testaments to a constantly shifting landscape. This outcome is mostly due to what Larsen said is the human emission of fossil fuels.

Larsen and his team traveled more than 600 miles on foot, using skis and pulling modified canoes. The journey, funded through the Save the Poles Project, is chronicled on the Web.

Throughout his travels Larsen overcame self-doubt, fear and worry, and found the strength to carry on when he felt like giving up.

“I call it day-40 syndrome,” he said. “When you’re out there you start to think of what you don’t have, and you get overwhelmed. Then I get into this Zen place and whatever happens, happens. The calmness gets you through the physical and mental crux.”

Larsen said he found strength through his teammates and the quote, “No one of us is as strong as all of us.”

“For so much of this trip people told me I couldn’t do it, that it was impossible,” he said. “I realized that the important part was the story [and] my ability to show people what I was seeing: climate change is because of us.”

He ended his speech with a heartfelt call to action and a reminder that despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, we can each overcome our doubts and insecurities and make a change.

“It’s a big problem,” he said, “a faraway goal with many seemingly impossible parts. But I’ve learned that it begins with one step. And that [one step] can be overwhelming, but when you do make it, it has the ability to make a dramatic change. We’re all average people capable of wonderful things.”

Last updated February 7, 2012
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