It gets a bit tiresome starting every new entry with 'what a great day' but the truth is, most are... and it wouldn't be appropriate to focus on any lower moments in this forum. That said, yesterday we tried a smaller group exercise, "high - low - wow - now" which gave the students and mentors the opportunity to be that bit more reflective and open about how the trip is going so far. What was your high point, low point, wow moment... and where are you at right now? For many, the lows were the lectures. Not the content, just the format. In fact, they wanted to stay awake... they want this information and knowledge... but after long hikes outside or big meals it's hard to stay alert in a warm, dark, rocking room. I empathize. The information has been heard and we already notice that as the days progress we have more workshops, more outdoor learning, and less one- way information.
But the lectures are good, and contain some fundamental information that differentiates this from a holiday. For one, the lectures and workshops are mandatory and roll call ensures all students are present. The topics vary depending on our location and activity of the day. They started with an introduction to the Arctic, to the people, then to things we were observing like sea ice, sea mammals, plants, birds, glaciers, and the history of this area. On every landing there are groups scouting for sign of animals or people, birders, plant collectors, and glaciologists. More recently the lectures have also been focussing on climate change, and climate change workshops are offered in parallel with sessions on printmaking, oil painting, inuit games, photography, plant pressing, and bone identification among others. At least a third of the students voluntarily attended the climate change workshop, thirsty for the hard core science and observations as well as to develop ideas for action. It's an inspiring, but challenging, session to be in.
Returning to ship
This afternoon we made a landing to Kivitoo, another former whaling location, more beautiful scenery though less overwhelming than the fjords. The flatter landscape somehow allowed for broader conversations; we didn't have a moral obligation to look up in awe every three seconds. A couple of students singled me out and quizzed me — what I did, what route I'd taken to get there, what I'd learnt, what is a PhD, what is the relevance of research... and hardest of all "if you were given 10 million dollars tomorrow to develop/ implement an idea related to climate change, what would it be?" Ouch.
So the learning and idea-churning is definitely in full motion. And what more, there is a new space to play with these ideas. To many of the students these are not new concepts: a certain group of them are clearly smart, informed, highly motivated, environmental activists with a passion to make a difference. They will make a difference whether or not they come on this trip. What this trip can do is provide them with two weeks, the space of no internet, school, or work, and accessible mentors with expertise in everything from arctic politics and global climate modeling to youth activism, exploration, art, and radical inventions.
Bill Lishman and students
To other students, the ideas are new, and even newer is the concept that they can make a difference. They are not only learning from the mentors and youth activists mentioned above, but among each other are developing a community of similar aged people with similar interests. Many say that no-one in their scene at home cares about the environment — from a small community in Arctic Canada or the wealthier boroughs of New York City. Now at least they will have friends they can share frustrations with by email, Facebook, and phone.
Meanwhile, lots of people are thinking about identity. Who they are, who they want to be, where they have come from. From within Canada alone we have students who have grown up in the north, south, east, and west, moved north, moved south, born north but adopted in the south. Add to this an age range of 13 - 19 and an international component including the US, Monaco, France, Austria, Norway, Mexico, and Afghanistan representing a full range of wealth and opportunity in their backgrounds. Everyone has a story, and something unique brought everyone here.
It's hard to gauge what they are going through, how valuable this programme is or isn't, whether it justifies its own cost and carbon footprint, and what the long term impact will be. Only the future will tell.
What is IPY
Wednesday, 13 August 2008 03:00
A step back from the adventureWritten by Rhian Salmon
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