The Polar Bear Talks: tales of an epic trek from Africa to the Arctic

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Gather Fellow, Tanzania

The First Chapter

My Arctic voyage this past June strikes me to be a dream like sensation, more than 4 months later and I am still dreaming a variation of the same tale – humanity on the edge! For nearly a year, I dreamt, attempted, gave up, whined, and eventually buried the hatchet and acted –succeeding to raise enough to afford the expedition. To go and learn (with all my senses, I technically mean it: all senses) about climate change ramifications, and to return home with an insight for actions I can take to save my local planet. An experience that recounts in the most surreal manner to me!

My journey was led by Sir Robert Swan, founder of the 2041 foundation, environmentalist and polar explorer, the first person to walk on both poles, together with other, amazing individuals from 27 countries.

I was the only Tanzanian and the only participant coming from Africa!!!

The trip was so rich with the right information about climate change, its impact and solutions –at both micro and macro levels. The leadership on the Edge training by a notable coach from New York and guest speakers from the National Geographic team - naturalists, scientists and educators - were equally superb.

Coming back home felt a little strange. I missed the freshness of the Arctic air, the all-time midday sunlight, polar bears, whales, birds and the ice. I also missed the daily dose of yoga and meditation.

Climate change does not cause global warming, per se. It is highly connected to social justice in general. Poor communities are experiencing the impact far more than wealthy communities. But that's only part of the story. The other part of the story is that at-risk poor communities are resilient beyond belief and from them so much can be learned about mitigation and adaptation.

With this nexus of Climate change and social justice, I am working to bring a convenient solution by establishing a sustainability learning center targeting young influencers.

I’ll have more to say about the actual journey in future chapters, and there are some videos of the trip below, but it was important for me to issue a note of gratitude first.

One of the most important persons who made my journey possible is Dr. Jane Goodall. One evening, as she and her colleague Dr. Anthony visited Dar Es Salaam, we sat on the porch of her house. Among our many discourses, I asked if she knew Sir Robert Swan. Of course, Dr. Goodall responded, “Yes.” She continued speaking highly of Swan’s mission to shape the next generation of youth by taking them to the Antarctic. I retorted, “By the way, I have applied to go on their first expedition to the top of the world, but I doubt if I can successfully raise required funds.” She looked at me and said, “I can help you with a recommendation letter.” That moment, my heart smiled and part of me knew that I was destined to go.

Of course, this could not happen with a recommendation letter alone, I had to work 16 to 18 hours every day in May this year, getting past all criticism and shame for not having started fundraising much earlier when I had time. I had quit my job at this time and I had all the time I needed to logically deal with such heartbreaking criticisms, strategically manage my time and resources to ensure I reach out to everyone I knew to have their heart at the right place (whatever this might mean at the time) and it worked.

The lesson, I think, is this: “Perhaps, to encourage successfully applicants (of educational opportunities) to also cover their costs and provide them with professional fundraising guidance, is (more than anything else) to help them become more attentive, engaged, intellectually critical and useful in their communities after the program.”

I will share another chapter in this unfolding story soon, but in the meantime, please watch the short videos below to learn more:

The First Chapter by Kyle O'Donoghue

Just 600 miles from the North Pole, Sir Robert Swan interviews Yusuph about his concept of a sustainability center in Tanzania. “You’re going to address this whole thing of people and animals in the wilderness. It’s going to be a practical thing,” Sir Swan said. “People in this world don’t need to be talked at - they need to be shown solutions and I’m so proud of you.”

Midnight Sun: A documentary by Kyle O'Donoghue

One of the expedition leaders narrates the journey with beautiful images of the landscape and the wildlife.

Arctic Expedition: Recruiting the Next Generation of Climate Activists by Madeleine Ptacin

 

Yusuph’s polar plunge experience by Trent Benson

Best of all, click above to watch take a dip in the cold blue waters of the arctic.

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