Miryam's Arctic Adventure
17 July 2012
Trip to the Arctic representing 10 million voices of WAGGGS to collaborate with the Save the Arctic Campaign – Greenpeace International
By Miryam Justo (Peru)
On June 26 2012 I left home for a one week expedition aboard the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace vessel, sailing from Svalbard, Norway, 78 degrees north of the Equator.
My expedition was thanks to the new WAGGGS partnership with the global environmental organisation Greenpeace International; to contribute to sustainable conservation of the environment (GAT/MDG#7).
Greenpeace is calling on the United Nations to create a global sanctuary to protect the uninhabited area around the North Pole to keep it safe from both oil drilling and overfishing. They need young people to take an active and important role in a vital international and environmental issue, and they need us, 10 million of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to join.
I have now been back in my hometown, Lima, for six days and when I close my eyes I can still feel the cold breeze in my cheeks and I am able to hear the sound of silence, I know I have been privileged to be given this opportunity, it was a dream come true. I flew more than seventeen hours and sailed for two days to reach the ice edge. I have been 1200kms close to the North Pole, the Arctic, an unknown region for many people, yet very important to all of us not only because it regulates the climate and hence affects the social and economic systems in different areas, (specially affecting the already disadvantage group of poor children and woman) but also because it is home to an array of migrating species and an area of interest to scientists and explorers, one of the least spoiled areas on earth.
“During the week I experienced the fact that the region is more than a white huge plain; my journey was full of contrasts, colors, sounds, beautiful scenes, passionate people and also birds, flowers and polar bears.” - Miryam
I was part of an international crew that traveled from every inhabitable continent on Earth to take part of the Save the Arctic Campaign. We were two privileged representatives from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Yvette Blankson from Ghana, Africa Region and me, the Chinese Pop star Hu Haiquan, the journalist/blogger from Hong Kong Frederick Lam, Dr. John Fletcher from Cambridge, UK and three Greenpeace staff Xiaoning “Shining” Shen from the Beijing office, Frida Bengtsson and Henning Reinton from Greenpeace Nordic.
Together we took part in a series of activities to get a taste of the pristine environment and prepare material to educate and raise awareness. We were part of a video shooting and a photo documentary, we wrote a blog entry and we sent Facebook and Twitter updates into WAGGGS and Greenpeace to raise our voice and to inspire more young woman and girls around the world to take action and imagine more for their future. Throughout the week we also spread the word about WAGGGS local, regional and international environmental activities and projects. We talked about the Centenary and the diversity in our movement and the upcoming “The Flag of the Future” contest. I responded to an interview made by Shining Shen, she was interested in my point of view as a young woman joining the trip and I also had several conversations with other guests and crew members about what WAGGGS does and the importance of young people being involved in topics of general importance. Also, Yvette was interviewed by BBC Africa and helped out Hu Haiquan in composing and singing a song about what is going on in the Arctic.
During the week I sent e-mails to WAGGGS bureau to keep them informed and to share my excitement.
During the expedition, we also headed out to the sea ice at Fram Strait with postdoctoral researcher John Fletcher to learn about his work, we tried cross country skiing with Henning Reinton Greenpeace Media Officer, we drove the Greenpeace Susie Q inflatable and with the ship’s crew we visited the abandoned settlement and coal mine of Pyramiden in Svalbard, about 50kms north of Longyearbyen the the largest settlement of the archipelago.
It was an inspiring week, every day I was impressed with something different, rumbling icebergs, two polar bears eating a seal, deep fjords, massive glaciers, purple and red tiny tundra flowers, and white covered peaks. But not everything was beautiful, I went to bear witness of the changes climate change is causing and that we as humans are making worse. When we went ashore we saw trash, fishing nets, old wires and more, sadly this did not only happened once, it happened every time we went ashore. The abandoned settlement/coal mine was surreal, abandoned for 25 years and looked like a ghost town.
Back at home I have shared with my colleagues, friends and family what I experienced, I have shown them pictures, encourage them to support the Save the Arctic Campaign, and in the upcoming weeks I’ll make a presentation for the Girl Guides and write a report in Spanish to send to my fellow volunteers. Also, I am trying to contact the press to showcase this journey and promote WAGGGS and Greenpeace initiatives.
I want to acknowledge all the people in WAGGGS and Greenpeace that made this journey possible. A special shout out goes to Yvette; all those onboard the Arctic Sunrise and the ones that didn’t sail with us but supported us from land