Year 1 Ambassadors

Ben Richards' Blog

Don't choke on your popcorn... - Sep 29th 2006 09:31AM (Updated)

Hi there, having reports come in from all over the country that the cinema ads are doing their work... If this is a first time visit, first up, sign the pledge - it's really simple and you can start stopping climate chaos today by clicking here:

www.climatechangecollege.org/ben

(and if you've already done it, start mailing your mates...)

If you've got any questions, mail me: [email protected]

Thanks also to anyone looking at the website as a results of the event - get in touch if you'd like something similar in your organisation...

Ben x


FREE ICE CREAM ALERT! - Sep 21st 2006 12:29PM

Hello hello,

Long time no blog, but just wanted to plug this event I'm running next week... Be there or be square - Guildford Institute, Ward Street, Guildford on Tues 26, Weds 27 and Thurs 28 September.  Free tickets and free ice cream for all attendees, bookable by dropping me an email - [email protected]  

Look forward to seeing you there, but if you can't make it, sign the online campaign at www.climatechangecollege.org/ben and make your voice heard!

Also - a date for your diaries a little further in advance...4 November, 1-3pm, Trafalgar Square.  Join us for the biggest EVER event demanding action on climate change now.  It'll be a ball.

Look forward to seeing you soon.

Ben xx 


Underexposed Blackberries - Aug 10th 2006 12:09AM (Updated)

Meant to post this a couple of days ago... On Sunday afternoon, having been meaning to chop all the brambles out of the back garden for months, I became very pleased that I never got round to it. By wandering about for five minutes I got this bumper crop of fruit with no food miles attached. They were well nice...

But it got me thinking. I didn't think blackberries should be ripe for the picking until September... And, apparently, they're not... Other amateur bramble enthusiasts might enjoy Nature's Calendar, a site charting the unseasonal behaviour we've seen in the UK over the last few years - confusion ensuing in the natural world as a result of small changes in our climate - and if you're really keen, you can even report your own 'spots'...

Thanks if you've signed the petition and are looking around the site as a result - hope you like what you've seen... And if you've not signed the petition, find out what it's all about by clicking here.

Cheers,

Ben

[email protected]


Small correction... - Aug 9th 2006 07:45PM (Updated)

If you're here off the back of the email I sent round, its been pointed out to me that in fact it's hurricane frequency (rather than tornado frequency) that's increased due to warmer sea temperatures... Sorry for that little blooper... The ever-helpful BBC website has some stuff on the difference between hurricanes and tornadoes, if you're interested...

I'm Ben, that's Jerry... - Aug 1st 2006 11:12PM

This is me and the man who put the Jerry's in Ben & Jerry's backstage on Saturdae- rock and roll...

Terminator's going to save the world... - Aug 1st 2006 02:17PM

Look here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/5233466.stm

Or here:

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,,1834664,00.html

Awesome... How cool is Arnie?  California is already doing lots of good stuff to help combat change and this quote from the UK-Californian joint press release is the most sensible thing I've heard from any politician on green issues for a while:

"California and the UK recognise the linkages between climate change, energy security, human health and robust economic growth."

A small but nonetheless significant acknowledgement.  I guess all we have to hope is that recognition of these issues translates into effective action to combat them.  And given the fact that climate change touches on so many key issues - including future economic and social security - action must come at the top of the agenda.

You can help to influence what happens here.  Sign our petition, asking Tony Blair to put sensible structures in place to reduce carbon emissions year on year and you become part of the debate... And with partnerships like the Tony-Arnie Alliance being built, you never know who you'll end up influencing.

Sign up here:  www.climatechangecollege.org/ben.

Not all good news from today's news though.  More reasons why war is bad, courtesy of the BBC website again (see below for hyperbole about their site...)

Cheers, Ben xx ([email protected])


What a couple of 'daes - Aug 1st 2006 02:09PM

So - Sundae in the Park - totally amazing... Not only did I dress up as a polar bear, but we also signed up over 4,000 of you to our campaign - pretty amazing stuff!  The more the merrier with the campaign though - if you're checking out our site because you saw us at the weekend, make sure you click through to my Campaign Page where you can get your mates to cut their carbon and have a word with Tony...

www.climatechangecollege.org/ben

... and remember you can email me with any questions or queries on the college, climate change or our trip to Greenland...

[email protected]

Cheers

Ben


An ambassador's work is never done... - Jul 20th 2006 09:22PM

Been a busy old couple of weeks on the Climate Change College front... Next week I'm doing a presentation all about Greenland in a local school, but aside from preparing my slides, I've also been busy with preparations for Ben & Jerry's Sundae in the Park (their charity festival on Clapham Common in London next weekend...).  If any of you guys are planning on coming down, pop over and see us - most of my free time of late has been consumed with building our pledge tree and editing a short film we'll be showing about the college.  Reliving the Greenland experience via the magic of video is proving to be really quite fun and I'm really looking forward to showing it to my fellow ambassadors.

Anyway - had better get back to it... Blogging is basically just a displacement exercise as I try to work out a) what music is going to end up on the final track b) whether it needs a voiceover and c) how I finish it in time for the festival...

Say hi on [email protected] and if you've not visited my campaign page yet, do it now!  Click over to www.climatechangecollege.org/ben and you'll get some more information on how you can help us in our online campaigns...

Cheers

Ben 


Why I pay my license fee* - Jul 13th 2006 11:13PM

Hey, me again - just a quick big up for the BBC website, which I read a couple of really interesting things
 on today.

First up, this piece on how London could be much wetter without new sea defences:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5092218.stm

Secondly, an American study has confirmed that temperatures do seem to be rising (although, interestingly, the debate still isn't clear cut...):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5109188.stm

Do spend some time browsing - me and my mates are having a chat about it now, and we reckon that (with the obvious exception of this site and my campaign page. ..) the internet would still be brilliant if only the BBC site existed...

(*Obviously, I would pay my license fee if the BBC website didn't exist, and in the interests of fairness, well done to ITV for X Factor and Channel 4 for Green Wing, Big Brother, Peep Show and most of the interesting comedy, entertainment and factual television from the last decade.  Thank you for listening...)

[email protected]
  

 


My Energy Review review - Jul 12th 2006 11:38PM (Updated)

It's late, so this'll be brief, but here's what I'm thinking about the government's Energy Review

  • The governement plans to boost the proportion of renewable energy we use from 5 to 20%. Ambitious, but concerning in light of the fact that we've already missed essential carbon cutting targets
  • Good news for Scotland - no to new nuclear and 24 potential windfarms on the way (this is Ruth's patch, so she may have more information on this...)
  • Not terrible news for England - Alastair Darling, the Government's Industry Secretary, has been quoted as saying nuclear's role will diminish between now and 2020 - 20% of our electricity needs are currently met by nuclear, and this will apparently be cut to 6 over the next 14 years (see comment on target track record, though...).
  • Concering that plans are vague about who's going to pay for the waste disposal... To deal with the nuclear we've already got is going to cost us £80 billion.
  • More nuclear is actually just plain bad... Haven't we learned anything from the carbon situation? Knowing that something has the potential to damage the future prospects of the planet and then keeping on doing it with carbon is one thing, but doing it with nuclear is, well, silly.
  • As Friends of the Earth has pointed out, there's no mention of transport in the plans either, which accounts for about a third of all the UK's carbon emissions...
  • More efficient appliances are endorsed in the plan - say goodbye to your standby settings... That's a good thing.
  • Planning might be getting easier for nuclear (boo) but it's also getting easier for renewables too (hurray!). Primarily local or site specific issues arguements will be heard against these developments - which makes local demonstration of support for renewables even more important. (And yes, windmills are bad for birds that fly into them, but if we don't start using clean technology, every bird everywhere could be put at risk from climate change).
  • These planning regulations will also make it easier for you to get a turbine on your roof. Cool...
  • Incentives for high energy consumers to cut their use is a step in the right direction too.
  • And finally, while coal might not be off the agenda entirely, if the stations get cleaner (using new generation technology where you get more bang for each piece of coal) then this is a good thing.

And that's what I think of the energy review!

In other news, my campaign page has gone live - visit www.climatechangecollege.org/ben to help combat climate change using only your fingers...

Ben x

[email protected]


Applying for the College (and helping us out...) - Jul 8th 2006 01:05PM (Updated)

Hey, just seen Lucy Siegle's plug for the college in the Observer so thought I'd say hello to any passing traffic..

If you've got any questions about what the Climate Change College is actually like and whether it's all a cynical ploy by an ice cream company (it isn't...), drop me a line - [email protected] . I can't recommend my experience strongly enough, so if you want to help stop climate change and are game for a challenge, go for it.

There's a bit more about me and my experience in Greenland below, and (if you haven't already seen it) the rest of the site has loads of information on the science of climate change, films and galleries, and how you can do your little bit...

As part of the college, we're supporting the WWF's Climate Change Campaign - and you can too. Using their online petition, you can help to send a clear message to the government that things must change now, and quickly, to avoid screwing up the global climate more than we have already... This campaign also feeds into Stop Climate Chaos, the coalition of concerned NGOs, community and faith groups working to minimize the damage we're doing to our climate.

Getting involved will only take a minute or two. Whether you apply for the College or not, click through to Hayley's campaign page (www.climatechangecollege.org/hayley) and sign the online petition.

(Well done and thanks if you did.)

Like I said, e mail me if you've got any questions and thanks for having a look at the site, Ben x

 

 


Back on the beat - Jun 28th 2006 01:25AM


Being back - May 17th 2006 09:56AM

It's still a bit funny here... Yesterday I got my photos back, which seemed to put the land of icebergs, snow, glaciers and other really cold things firmly behind me. But then I remember that I woke up on an icecap last Wednesday.  And then I look up from my PC and get a bit sad that I'm not still out there...

Wanted to use this update to say thanks to everyone that contributed to making the last few weeks totally amazing: fellow ambassadors - you rule at all sorts of things (wall building, grubby jokes, teaching me about bulldog caesarians) - thanks for making an already brilliant couple of weeks even better; Marc - without you I wouldn't have made it further north than Edinburgh - thanks for the help and reassurance along the way, I had the best time; Dr Phil - everyone's favourite unfeasibly young explorer - thank you for looking after us and melting all the snow; Phillippa - thanks for all your support, have a feeling I'll be calling you up about the campaign sometime soon... Hope you enjoyed discovering your inner "outdoor type" too; Tonje - without your polar bear expertise I'd be nothing - thanks for the late night "I have to know this NOW!!!" chats and hope your new mobile is now up and running; Pete, Doug, Vicky and Julian the Scientists - thanks for letting me do the drawings - I couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of academics to spend an islolated week with; Jens - you absolutely rule - look forward to seeing the Kangerlussuaq empire in another decade (providing the developing world haven't all got those 4x4s we discussed); Anniek, Bahrie and Jeroen - you guys rock - thanks for the warmest of welcomes back at Amsterdam, and for your support throught the project; and Jerry, the man that called me 'the other Ben' (what an accolade!) - thanks for your hard work in changing business so far, and for your generosity with this particular project.

So, that was Greenland.  And now it's campaigning time...


Back in the real(ish) world - May 11th 2006 02:56AM

So, today we left the icecap and I'm back in Ilulissat, land of the icebergs.  After a hectic morning digging our tents out of snowdrifts we had a touch and go incident with the helicopter…  It arrived to pick us up at about 3 o clock but then we had to wait about an hour after the Arctic weather decided to completely mist up and then clear again before we could take off.  Suffice to say we were really relieved when we finally took off – fun as it was on the icecap, we were all ready to return to a place with proper food, beds and normal running water…

 

I for one am feeling an immense sense of accomplishment about the whole affair.  Not only did we endure pretty extreme conditions (it never made it to minus thirty, but you know you’re not at home when conversations include the phrases such as “ooh, isn’t it warm” when it hit minus one) but we also felt really useful to the scientists.  Apparently, we helped to get data that they’d have never been able to collect without us.  Our work will combine with that of teams from across the Arctic to help deliver more accurate satellite data that will be collected when Cryosat relaunches in 2009, so we’re all feeling pretty good about our time in the cryosphere.

 

Now that the Greenland experience is drawing to a close, we’re looking forward to using our experiences here to help with the campaigns we’ll be developing when we get home. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but there’s loads that everyone can do to help reduce the carbon emissions that are already damaging the environment in this area.  Even if you only change the lightbulbs you use, you’ll be helping out.  Energy efficient bulbs use a quarter of the energy of conventional bulbs, saving you money before you even consider the fact that they last twelve times as long, and everyone can make simple changes like this to minimize their impact on the climate. 

 

I’m going to keep updating the site when I get home, so don’t stop checking for news from me.  If you have any questions, I’d also be more than happy to answer them.  I’m also pulling together a presentation on this whole thing, so if you have an audience that may be interested, let me know and I’ll come and talk to you about what’s going on in Greenland and what people can do to help prevent dramatic climate change in their homes or businesses. Get in touch on [email protected] and I’ll drop you a reply.

 

Thanks to you all for looking at the site and hope to see lots of you soon.

 

Cheers

 

Ben

Telegraph article - May 7th 2006 11:15PM

We were joined by a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph earlier in the week - this is his write up on our pal Jerry and the science we're working on...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/07/wice07.xml


All cool on the icecap - May 7th 2006 11:00PM

Being on the icecap is a funny experience and now that we’ve been here for four nights, I feel well qualified enough to talk about some of the pros and cons I’ve encountered so far…

Pros

Access to The Scientists:  Not only did The Scientists give us Irish coffees at four in the afternoon the other day (it was too snowy for us to work, honest...), but it’s brilliant having access to their expertise.  Pete and Doug the Scientists explained some of the various scenarios for the Greenland ice cap in their tent.  While it’s not entirely clear what’s going on up here, warmer temperatures being brought by an increase in carbon emissions could mean a number of things could happen: for example, a temperature increase of between three and five degrees centigrade, the entire bottom of the Greenland ice cap could melt away, causing sea level rises of two to three metres.  If sea temperatures continue to rise, the effect could be more dramatic, and in the event that the increase in cold water from the Arctic could move the ocean currents that keep Northern Europe temperate could be disrupted.  It’s pretty serious business.

Turning into a semi-professional adventurer-cum-scientist:  Not only was I told that I looked like a proper explorer in my mittens on Friday, but yesterday I did some ‘proper science’.  Having tried my hand at digging and laser levelling (not as fun as it sounds), I was asked to make a drawing of the ice face to record the ice crusts and layers of ice that have percolated through the snow during the summer melt periods (Andrew has dug a pit so deep that it almost takes us back to 2004).  I loved doing this drawing based job, and fortunately, so did the The Scientists -  it may now be used in some Phd research.  I think this is pretty cool!

You’re encouraged to play with snow: Necessities of life here include digging snowpits (mostly for The Scientists), rolling about in the snow with tarpaulins and digging your tent out of snowdrifts every other day.  While it’s cold business, it’s also great fun!

You don’t have to wash: Or rather you can’t wash.  Which is strangely liberating.  Since there’s not even another building here, let alone taps or a shower, you just have to put up with the grime for as long as you’re here.  Vicky the Scientist, who has been here for three weeks already, has advised that your skin and hair end up looking really nice after an absence of washing – which I suppose is a really nice surprise ‘pro’ as well (although perhaps not a good reason to come here in itself…)

Noone cares what you look like:  Staying warm is the number one priority here, so if you’re dressed in in six layers of super thick jackets, a balaclava and four pairs of mittens, that’s fine.  Also, as you can’t wash, hairstyling goes completely out the window – freeing up more time for…

Eating absolutely loads: Keeping your metabolism stoked up is really important here, which means we spend quite a considerable portion of each day packing ourselves with salami, biscuits, cheese, chocolate and muesli (which we’ve now worked out how to make taste nice despite the powdered milk).  Those of you that know me well will appreciate how happy this is making me.  I love the Arctic!

Heaps of sleep: I’ve always thought camping was OK, but never been a huge fan.  Here, it’s wonderful.  The superthick polar sleeping bags combined with the fact you can never tell what time of day it is means that noone really knows whether it’s eight in the morning or half past eleven – so we’ve been getting up at the latter time.


Cons:

The ‘bathroom’:  I miss flush toilets, or indeed any toilets that don’t involve snow and balancing on skis.  Enough said.

Washing up in the snow: Although I’m growing to appreciate the ‘freeze on the muck, then chip it off’ approach to washing up, it does mean that you have to stand in the cold for longer than is necessary.  Finding myself increasingly jealous of The Scientists, who are allowed hot water to do their dishes and even have a bottle of washing up liquid…

Everything gets covered in snow:  I guess I should have thought about that before coming to the Arctic…

Generally having a great time.  Getting slightly concerned that the bad weather will prevent us from leaving on Wednesday as planned, but would be quite content to stay as we appear to have enough food to last us about three months…


Life on the icecap - May 5th 2006 03:47AM

About the only thing I expected about the icecap is that it would be cold.  And it is.  Apparently, we’ve had relatively nice weather, but this means daytime temperatures of about minus fifteen and minus twenty five at night.  Despite being a bit on the chilly side, it’s totally amazing here.  Everything I’ve done in Greenland has made me get really excited but being in a place with only twelve other people, some tents and a lot of snow is incredible.  As I write at about 1am, the sky is still clear and bright and the sun is about to rise again.  Pretty cool stuff.  It’s a bit like being on the moon, or in a desert, with rough peaks of ice and smooth dunes in every direction.

 

Last night we dug out toilet pit, which was actually great fun as we’d only just got off the helicopter (a sentence I never thought I’d type).  After eating a chicken curry for dinner yesterday evening, I had a rough night’s sleep and was promptly a bit sick on the icecap this morning.  This wasn’t fun, but I’m now fine – only occasionally having to massage circulation back into my fingertips.

 

Most of today was spent mashing lumps out of powdered milk and digging a snow pit under the supervision of the scientists we’re working with out here. I’m not sure whether the novelty of being out here will wear off after a whole week, but with (almost) two nights down and five to go, I’m now confident that I’m not going to die out here, and that the whole experience is an integral part of our training at the college.  It’s not many people that get to come out here at all, let alone come out here to help with the validation measurements for a satellite.

 

Going to sign off now, tired and a bit cold (you can’t type in mittens…)

 

Ben
[email protected]

Quick pre icecap update - May 3rd 2006 02:27AM

Hey, just a quick pre icecap update.

 

Been a really busy couple of days…

 

Yesterday we prepared all the kit we’re going to need to survive on the icecap and it dawned on me just what I was letting myself in for…  We had a trial run of putting up the tent, which was moderately successful, but Marc (our resident polar explorer) was on hand to remind us that it wouldn’t be quite so straightforward a job in cold, strong winds and temperatures of minus thirty…  I also tried on what I can only really describe as “thermal leggings” today, much to the amusement of Hayley and Ruth.  So far my trousers have been too baggy (due to belt malfunctions) and too high (thanks to badly adjusted braces), but the thermals added a droopy gusset to my comedy trouser repertoire...  We also packed the food – there’s a lot of it, but as far as I can tell there’s not much to do but eat, dig snow in the name of science and sleep on an icecap (it’s not like you can pop to Blockbuster if you get bored) so the industrial quantities of muesli, peanuts and chocolate we’ve packed should come in handy to while away the hungry evenings.  We also have piles and piles of “Adventure Food” – not as fun as it sounds – I’m trying not to imagine what a dehydrated bacon omelette will look and taste like when it hits the plate, although I expect I’ll be grateful however it turns out when I’m actually there…

 

The media are also in town today, so we gave a little presentation each at the press conference.  That was quite fun – there may be some coverage in the Sunday Telegraph soon…  Jerry (Greenfield of ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ fame) was also here today, and I got a nice photo of me and him.  He’s a great guy (we got a hug instead of a handshake when we met him!) and it was nice to get the chance to thank him for helping to make this possible.

 

We go to the icecap tomorrow.  My goodness me.  Slightly scared still and we’ve not had loads of time to mentally prepare for it all, but we did go on another boat ride tonight so had some nice Zen time with the icebergs (and tried not to focus on the fact my toes get a bit cold here –  where it’s a lot warmer than it is at the icecap).

 

Will update again soon.

 

Do e mail me with your moral support.  I really think I’m going to need it!

 

Cheers

 

Ben
[email protected]

The first big update - May 1st 2006 08:11PM

 

FRIDAY

 

Having skipped through Amsterdam and Copenhagen on Thursday, we actually arrived in Greenland on Friday morning.  Kangerlussuaq, a town of 500 people and the home of Greenland’s most reliable international airport,   gave us our first taste of the cold and our first experience of the Arctic.

 

Once we’d passed through the airport itself (a small place, full of people speaking Danish and Greenlandic, plus Dutch and English when we arrived), we were taken on a brief tour of the area.  Driving through the tundra, a bleak but beautiful mix of blacks, whites, greys and yellows, we saw some local wildlife (Arctic sparrows, reindeer, musk ox) and also our first glaciers.  The colour is the first thing that hits you:  Ruth and I both spotted a bright, light blue patch of ice, and as we got closer, the blue got more and more intense and the glacier got more and more dramatic.  I never really appreciated just how a glacier could carve away at a granite landscape until seeing one, when you realise just how enormous they are and how much force is behind them. 

 

Passing the glaciers, we stopped to take a look at the edge of the ice cap.  Rather worryingly, it was really quite cold out there and, although we’ve all been kitted out with warmer gear since then, I’m still slightly concerned about how freezing it will be once we get to the ice cap itself…

 

So, after a brief look at the area, we headed back to the airport for another short flight in a the coolest plane I’ve ever been in.  (At this stage, I should acknowledge that flying isn’t at all good for the environment but that all our travel is being offset by myclimate, a company that invests in microrenewables in the developing world.  This doesn’t give us an excuse to fly more, just a way of making it less damaging when it’s necessary to do it.  There’s no excuse for not offsetting, so if you don’t, start to.)  It was only a fifty seater, which made the experience quite personal – the pilots invited all the passengers up to the cockpit (an offer Hayley and I took advantage of), which gave us stunning views of the sea, the ice and our first glimpse of icebergs.  I got a bit overexcited during the flight, which didn’t escape the Greenlandic lady I was sat next to.  When I started to take photos from the plane, she advised that I saved my film until we were a little closer to Ilulissat, our final destination, as the icebergs were much bigger there…

 

… and she was right.  Ilulissat is a town of 5,000 people and it’s situated near to the outlet of a glacier.  This means that the icebergs in the area can be pretty enormous, so most of Friday evening was spent staring at the views and trying to make sense of it all (something I’m still doing).  Ilulissat is situated in an area called Disko Bay (not because everyone goes about their business in afro wigs and flares, but because of a disc-shaped island just out at sea), and having chucked our bags in our lodgings, we set out to meet Aqqaluk Lynge, president of of the Inuit Circumpolar Convention (ICC), Greenland and vice-chair overall.  He was a really interesting man, and began to expose some of the issues Greenland is facing at the moment: like every other person in a similar position, he wants his country to be stable and prosperous, and the threat of climate change is already threatening to destabilise this here.  Slight changes in sea temperature could have major impacts on the type of fish that live off Greenland’s coast, which will in turn impact on one of the area’s primary industries.  This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however. Changes to sea ice patterns have already made it impossible to sustain the traditional winter culture and new debates over potential shipping routes in a sea with less ice than in previous years demonstrate the depth and breadth of issues a man like Aqqaluk has to deal with.

 

We went to bed at about 11.30, with the sun still shining, pretty tired but all really excited about the prospects for Saturday.

SATURDAY - May 1st 2006 08:09PM

SATURDAY

 

We were up and out early on Saturday morning, breakfasting at a local clifftop hotel with brilliant views of the icebergs in Disko Bay. 

 

In the course of the day, we became much better acquainted with the ’bergs as we took a boat trip out to Rode Bay, a small community of 50 people.  The journey was pretty amazing for several reasons: we sailed past some icebergs bigger than houses, the colours of the sea and the sky and the ice were so striking and it began to hit home just how much things have changed in the area.  Ten years ago, the whole area would have been covered in sea ice – ice that just doesn’t come to the area any more as a result of warmer temperatures.  Stunning as the journey was, it did occur to me that it was only possible because of the forces that have drastically changed the way people in Greenland live their lives – forces that are poised to change the way we live our lives too in the coming years as sea levels rise, rain patterns change and our climate is destabilised. 

 

As we walked up to the village over the sea ice, we were confronted by Inuit culture: firstly we were told to watch out for fishing holes in the sea ice and then we followed a trail of blood through the snow.  It didn’t take long to find out where the blood might have come from.  In front of a pack of huskies, we came across a lady merrily bagging up a seal on the ice sheet.  Strange as this was, it’s comforting to know that humans all over the world are similar: while we go about getting our food differently, it all needs chopping up one way or another – and it was great that our guide could pick up her dinner just hours after it had been caught.

 

A sense of the strange in the familiar ran through the village.  I’m sure animals outnumber people in some English villages, but when it’s huskies that outnumber people 4 to 1 it seems somehow special.  Likewise, the town’s church (Greenland has been Lutheran since the 1700s) has an altar and virgin, but this can be concealed behind a screen when the building performs it’s other role as a school house (the pews even fold down and double as desks).

 

We ate lunch in Rode Bay, which also proved to be a pretty cool experience.  I’m not a fussy eater, which proved to be pretty handy when we were served up a feast that included whale meat and blubber – all caught in and around Rode Bay.

 

We headed back through the icebergs for yet more new experiences – this time, husky dog sledging through the mountains and out towards the ice fjords – the area where the Ilulissat glacier pushes out new icebergs to the sea.  The area seemed so remote and inaccessible: despite the fact that we’d only travelled for about 45 minutes out of town, we were surrounded by snow covered mountains and massive icebergs. 

 

Husky dogs were a significant part of Inuit culture, so there’s an extent to which it’s a real shame that they’re now really only a tourist attraction. Their change in status is in part down to the growing tourist trade (increasingly important to Greenland’s economy) but equally due to the changing sea ice patterns in the area.  Husky sledges were once used to travel over the winter sea ice that connected the smaller island communities that lie off Greenland’s coast, but the fact that the sea ice has now disappeared in many areas and is dramatically depleted in others means that this can no longer happen. 

 

We saw some other changes to the Greenlandic communities later that evening.  Having spent the day looking at beautiful icebergs we saw the flipside of Greenland in an Ilulissat bar.  A significant proportion of the clientele were drunk, swaying appreciatively to Celine Dion and obscure Scandinavian power ballads.  It was certainly thought provoking: not only has Euro-American culture contributed to the decay of the climate that made the Inuit lifestyle possible, but in return we’ve opened the door to alcoholism and bad music.

SUNDAY - May 1st 2006 08:08PM

SUNDAY 

 

These days keep getting better.  This morning we had a proper tour of Ilulissat in the snow, taking in the town’s church and the local museum on the way.  While there have been settlements in the Ilulissat area for over 4,000 years, the town was officially founded in the 1700s by a Danish chap called Jacob – hence the area’s Danish name, Jacobshaven.  His statue stands outside the town’s museum, although our guide implied that it could have been one of a few European countries that got here first to ‘civilise’ the locals.  Having seen what the influence of Western culture did last night, however, I’m not so sure that it was such a good thing that we turned up at all…

 

The afternoon was a real highlight, however, and prepared us really well for heading out to the ice cap next week.  We saw the end of the journey for the ice we’ll be working on – the Ilulissat fjord, where icebergs can be 25 metres high and millions of years of erosion has created a valley that’s a kilometre and a half deep in some places.  Words don’t really do the icebergs justice, so there’s a picture above instead.  The whole of the Ilulissat fjord and glacier were made a World Heritage Zone in 2004, in part because of the area’s well preserved ancient Inuit settlements and in part due to its geological value. 

 

Our guide told some fantastic stories about Inuit life in the area, describing the ‘lights out’ game the locals used to play to ensure biological diversity in their small communities (yes, the games are what you think they are), explaining why the Inuit have 38 words for snow and some of the Inuit legends.

 

From a climate perspective, we also found out that
  
  • The glacier has doubled its output in the last decade
  • The glacier is receding further and further inland
  • The icebergs themselves have halved in size, probably because of the increased speed of the glacier
  • If things keep going as they are now, there could be no more icebergs in the future.

 

This might not seem like a big deal, but Ilulissat means ‘place where there are lots of big icebergs’ in Inuit (my rough translation).  It would be a shame if the very literal Greenlandic language had to change Ilulissat’s name to “place where there used to be lots of icebergs’’, not only because it would be the our fault for not kerbing emissions sooner, but because future generations won’t get the chance to see the stunning views I was privileged enough to see today.

Just a quick noe... - Apr 29th 2006 01:46AM

Hello one and all... Don't know if this is working, but Iøm here, it's cold, but it's also absolutely stunning.  Having a ball, but haven't had much time to update this...  So far, have seen huskies, glaciers, been on a really cool plane and met the president of Greenland - hope to provide a more detailled update tomorrow...

Ben x


My goodness... - Apr 26th 2006 04:53PM

Well, tomorrow we set off for the Arctic.  Blimey.  At the
moment, I'm up to my neck in packing (trying to work out just how many
jumpers will come in handy) and have just done another interview - this
time with the Surrey Advertiser.

I still have pretty no idea what
it's actually going to be like in Greenland, although we have had a few
more details about the programme - not only will we be visiting local
communities in the area, but we'll also be kayking with them and dining
with the Greenland vice president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference
before we head out to the icecap for seven nights' of digging and
camping in subzero conditions!

At the moment, I'm feeling
absolutely petrified but really excited - we're in good hands, and the
experience looks set to be completely incredible.

While we're out
there, you'll be able to stay in touch by checking for updates on the
blog and emailing me ([email protected]). 
There may also be some media coverage so keep your eyes peeled for that
as well. 

I'm off to finish packing now - wish me luck!

Cheers

Ben x

26 - 04 - 2006


Andrew Shepherd's view from space - Apr 25th 2006 12:15AM (Updated)

This entry is all about the science of climate chance. Andrew Shepherd from Cambridge University came to talk to us about his work, and below there's a summary of his lecture. Some of it's a bit heavy going, and it's undeniably sobering reading, but I hope you find it interesting.

Andrew Shepherd – Ice & Climate: A view from space

The Antarctic was the primary focus of Andrew’slecture. A few small satellites have given scientists a much better idea about the earth’s cryosphere (snowy & icy bits – “cryo” is from the Greek for “frost”), and it’s now becoming clear that there’s a great deal of potential sea level rise in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic.

The rapid breakup of the Larsen Ice Sheet in North Western Antarctica in 2002 illustrates how quickly and unexpectedly the established features of the cryosphere can disappear. The 5-10o C temperature rise in this microclimate increased surface melting and prevented crevasses (caused by tidal activity where glacial run-off joins ice sheets) in the ice from closing up, weakening the ice sheet before it disintegrated.

Tide gauge records indicate a 15cm sea level rise since 1900. While contributing factors have been recognised, scientists have been unable to make the numbers add up properly. Ocean expansion (caused by increased temperatures), glacial melting, ice sheet melting and river discharges have all been identified as contributors, but there is still no consensus on where half the 15cm sea level rise has come from. Notwithstanding a rapid acceleration, sea levels are expected to rise by another 0.5 metres this century, mostly through thermal expansion.

Andrew also discussed the ERS satellite, which is able to measure topography of an area against motion in the same area to produce inteferograms, a type of map that indicates where, in the case of Antarctica, melting is taking place most rapidly. The satellite can also produce altimetry readings (ie the height of an ice mass, the depth of seas etc). These readings suggest a 30cm loss in height of parts of Antarctica’s ice caps. However, a reduction in height of 1m above water means that a 10m loss has happened below sea level. This isn’t the only underwater problem: basal crevasses seem to be causing the most substantial weakening of the ice, with cracks beneath the surface being 9 times larger than those above it.

A 1o C increase in ocean temperatures causes 10m loss of ice height, so the loss of ice is broadly consistent with recorded increases in local sea temperature of 0.25 o C.

Ice sheets help to stabilise for glacial melts, particularly in Western Antarctica, where glaciers sit on muddy seabeds rather than rock. With the loss of ice sheets, it is now easier for larger chunks of glacier to slip into the sea: research and ERS inteferograms show that these glaciers are retreating more quickly than before, with a more rapid flow of melt water resulting in a loss of mass balance (mass balance = the balance of “snow in” against “melt water out”: if the latter is greater, sea levels will rise). Melting in Western Antarctica is currently happening at such a rate that it accounts for a 0.75 mm sea level rise each year. There is a potential for a 10m sea level rise contained in the Antarctic ice cap and, if the climate warms as predicted by the IPCC, Antarctic glacial melting will be the biggest contributor to sea level rises over the next century.



No to a nuclear future - Apr 19th 2006 01:55PM (Updated)

Everyone knows nuclear is a bad idea and, if you didn't, this is why:

  • RISK LEVELS go up with any worldwide increase in nuclear mining and transportation, and it takes hundreds of thousands of years to make the waste safe
  • EXPENSE of setting up new sites, dealing with waste (the UK's bill for current waste disposal is currently placed at £56 billion) and generation of energy per unit (which costs more than renewables or fossil fuels) all make nuclear more costly, and returns on investment are often nonexistent
  • EFFICIENCY is not drastically improved, in part due to the continued reliance on the centralised distribution of electricity (which loses 90% of the energy produced before it reaches homes) and significant amounts of carbon dioxide are produced in the generation process

A campaign is currently running to get a million signatures from across Europe to say "No" to nuclear.  They're only on 304,000 at the moment, so they need a hand to reach their goal - if you think this sounds like a campaign worth thirty seconds of your time (not long in the scheme of things, it is?), follow the link below and click on "Sign now".

http://www.million-against-nuclear.net/

NB - this isn't officially endorsed by the college, and nor is it part of our campaigns, but it's a good thing to support nonetheless - and, as our colleagues in Holland would say, de website is ook beschikbaar in het Nederlands.

IN OTHER NEWS.... For those of you that live in the Surrey area, I'm going to be on The Eagle on Saturday, so listen out for that!

[email protected]


Style vs substance: the age old debate rages on... - Apr 18th 2006 02:20PM

I was on the phone to one of my friends yesterday and, as you do when you're off to the Arctic next Thursday, gave her a bit of an update on my radio debut (thanks to Southern Counties Radio!), fitness (getting somewhere, if not entirely sure where...) and the campaign I'm planning (more on that soon).

She happened to mention that this month's Vanity Fair has a big feature on all things green in it, so I went out and found a copy - posing with Julia Roberts and George Clooney on the cover is our mate Al Gore, who also writes a piece for the magazine, and inside there are lots of nice pictures of people who do good things for the planet.  It's quite a good read, although the best bit is a supplementary guide to the 101 things you can do to help save the environment. 

This little guide's best feature is that it's really practical and acts quite nicely as a checklist for all the things we can (all) still be doing in our homes and offices.  Fifty of the suggestions are available online - take a look and see what you think by visiting www.vanityfair.com.

The appearance of Green issues in a magazine like Vanity Fair interesting for two reasons.

Firstly, I think it further supports the change of position we're beginning to see in the world's media.  Climate change does matter.  People are taking it seriously.  It is already having tangible impacts.  And we have to do something about it.

But in doing something about it, should Vanity Fair and all that it stands for even exist?  Fashion requires consumption for consumption's sake and, when we do "need" new clothes, it's unlikely that our purchases will be made solely out of necessity but that any decisions will involve the more sophisticated powers at work in our society - the need to own certain clothes and products to connect with and "buy into" a particular lifestyle.

As for fashion magazines (which, to the uninitiated, are mostly just adverts for clothes), I'd personally like to see lower quality paper and printing employed to deliver a product that appreciates its own value and role in the bigger scheme of things.  Despite the good work it's done in this issue, nothing means Vanity Fair has to exist in the format it does now: who says it needs to be so glossy or the paper needs to be so thick and plush?  Surely paper and printing resources could be used more effectively if they were directed into books on renewable energy for the developing world?

One to think about, I think - you never know - maybe the revolution starts here?

[email protected]

18-04-2006


Three weeks and counting - Apr 8th 2006 10:56AM

Just a quick weekend entry from me today - the rest of my time will
be spent planning my campaign and running around in the nice weather we
seem to be having today in an attempt to get a bit more fit before I go
to Greenland.

It's all getting a bit close now - can hardly wait,
but it's all a bit daunting...  We'll be issuing updates on here
throughout our time in Greenland, so you won't miss out on anything.

Keep on e mailing using [email protected]

Cheers

B

8 April 2006


Being at the seaside makes you look cool - Apr 5th 2006 02:11PM (Updated)

Had a lovely time in Bournemouth - thanks for the hospitality from everyone down there.

Also wanted to say something about Gnarls Barclay's triumph this week.  In my humble opinion, this bodes well for the future.  That buyers feel that downloading a file is as good as buying a CD is significant.  It moves the emphasis away from having to produce anything but the music - removing the need for energy to be consumed and waste to be produced when CDs are made.  The day when CDs stop being produced is a long way off, I expect, but Gnarls' achievement is a step in the right direction. 


Fish, arcades and related links - Apr 5th 2006 02:11PM (Updated)

I'm going to be away beside the seaside for a few days, so no updates from me until next week. 

I like the seaside and think you should too.  There are loads of reasons to visit - so many that I think I need some bullet points... 

  • it's cheaper than going abroad (particularly off peak)
  • breaks by train are better than breaks by plane
  • they all have those arcades with 2p machines (what a way to kill an hour...)
  • fish (preferably the sustainable sort), chips and mushy peas
  • you'll get to know a bit more of your country and you're supporting a UK based industry that's taken a battering thanks to the growth of low cost airlines. 
  • More to the point, these parts of the country are under threat and many of our grandest costal resorts will, eventually, end up under the 7 meters sea level rise caused by thawing icecaps - enjoy them while you can! 

If you miss me too desperately, you may be interested in an article I wrote on Hidden Agendas, a new website for young people to talk politics, social issues and all that jazz.  They're also always on the look out for people to write for them, so if you're interested in that sort of thing, do take a look.   Check out www.hiddenagendas.org.uk for a browse.

Keep on e mailing (hello to Sarah and Kierra) on [email protected], and speak to you soon.


A step in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go - Apr 5th 2006 02:10PM (Updated)

Two stories on the UK government that may be of interest -

First up, well done to Tony & Cherie - an overdue but important sign that they're leading by example...

...but there's loads more still to be done.  Perhaps if the government had been offsetting ministerial emissions a bit earlier - websites to do this have been around for a few years now - we'd have had a better chance of hitting the targets?

Green groups seem to be fairly unimpressed with the government's efforts so far - if you fancy changing their minds from the comfort of your PC, take a look at the E-Campaigner pages on this site.

 


The Beginning (part 2) - Apr 5th 2006 02:10PM (Updated)

There's only a month to go now until we depart for the Arctic...  While night-time temperatures may dip as low as minus 30, on the plus side I found out that we'll be getting to use a neutron probe for the scientific research we'll be doing - how cool is that? More on that next time, as there's still a bit of story missing...

The Application form:

I filled this in honestly - always the best policy.  I could have pretended to be a cross between Captain Scott and Captain Planet, but that wouldn't have done me any favours, I don't think.  I had a smattering of knowledge and lots of different experiences (producing plays, writing, some campaigning, some work with boosting inclusion and engagement), which seemed to do the trick to get me in the final 50...

Round Two:

The broad brief to "do something creative that can be judged in five minutes" was a bit of a tough one.  I knew I wanted to do something about the problems as I saw them, so I made a film that involved (in no particular order) kettles, old toy cars, my phone bill, some jam, a lot of post its and a picture of Kate Moss.  The judges liked it!  (I'm sure you'd like it too, but the law means we can't put it on the site at the moment. We're working on that...).  That got me through to...

The selection weekend:

By now, 1500 had become just twelve: six of us from the UK and six from the Netherlands, fighting it out for three places per country. Unfortunately, any attempt to build this up into a massive, agressive contest would be misleading.  We all got on really well, perhaps because of the bonding experience that spending a night under a drafty teepee brings, but primarily because it was clear that we all cared.  After a weekend of physical, mental and skill tests (a bit like the Crystal Maze, but in an outward bound centre just outside Rotterdam) the six of us heading north next month were announced. 

We also got a taste for the calibre of people involved in the scheme that weekend - speakers and judges included an astronaut, a well known UK journalist, and Marc, a man whose job title is Polar Explorer (and who is largely responsible for all of this happening).

So, in a nutshell, that's how I got to the Arctic.  Next time, more on the training weekend I've just returned from...

Someone is reading this and has emailed me already.  If you'd like to do the same, get in touch about any of this using [email protected].

Until next time, amigos,

Ben

2006-03-27


The Beginning (Part 1) - Apr 5th 2006 02:09PM (Updated)

Hello! Welcome to my blog - thanks for taking a look!

If I'm honest, I'm still finding all of this a bit strange. Eighteen months ago, I didn't think I was the type of person who really cared about the environment and now I'm less than two months away from making a trip to the Arctic and running my own climate change campaign. I suppose I'd like to use this first entry to tell you how the heck that happened, but first, a bit about me (it is my blog, after all...).

I'm 24 years old and I live in a town called Guildford, Surrey (just south of London in the UK). I've lived in or around Guildford for most of my life, although I spent three years in Oxford doing an English degree, moving back to Surrey afterwards. Since graduating, I’ve mostly been working in internal communications, which involves copywriting and editing for publications and websites, as well as events management. (While I’m writing, many thanks to my bosses at Standard Life Healthcare for giving me the time off to go to Greenland as
we’re - or rather, they’re - going to be really busy then...)

Having left university and started work I started to think about things I didn't have to think about before. Like what was I going to do for the rest of my life? How could I make my skills and experience more useful? And what actually matters? I spoke to some of my university
friends about leaving (which we did in July 2003) and I was pleased to find that I wasn't the only one to find it a bit odd. Going from something nice and structured to this vast, confusing minefield they call "life" was a bit of a shock to the system for me. And the answers to the questions didn't come easy.

Eventually, I reached some conclusions. I liked the idea of solving problems. I wanted it to involve talking or writing in some way, shape or form. And I knew that the problem had to be a big one if I was going to be motivated enough to do anything about it - something that would change the world. (Apparently this figures because I’m an INFP .) First up, I tried writing a book (I got 10,000 words, but it remains a work in progress). Then I thought I'd like to be a photographer (something I'm still keen on following up). Fortunately, I'm really quite indecisive, so I didn't settle on either of these things - and, what's more, neither seemed important enough to devote my time and energy to.

Although I’d reached some conclusions, the questions didn't stop. If something isn't socially useful, should it exist? Where has my food come from? What's the point of popular culture? How do companies get away with putting money over every other consideration?

That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps the environment was something I should do something about. This was odd: I was a member of my primary school’s gardening club (all I remember from that was that you ALWAYS grow mint in a pot), and the boys formed a rival to the girls’ Green Club when I was about nine, but hadn’t even thought of saving the planet since then. Most of my inclinations were towards more superficial stuff anyway - I
liked magazines, MTV and new clothes, but all of that had started to look a bit pointless compared to the impending climatic catastrophe that seemed increasingly inevitable at the time (of course, science says some degree of climate chaos is inevitable now. Which should push magazines, MTV and new clothes a bit further down the list of priorities, shouldn’t it?).

Safe in the knowledge that this was something I needed to do more about, I signed up to my local Friends of the Earth group at the end of 2004. On joining, I soon found that this was important and that I should be following it up. With a bit of local campaigning and a public debate under my belt, I saw the advert for Climate Change College…

And, since this has suddenly become really quite long, I’ll fill you in on what happened next
in my next instalment… (I never knew I was such a gifted storyteller!)

E mail me in the meantime if you want – [email protected].

Until the next time, pals - I’m off to strengthen my digging arm before I go to Greenland…

2006-03-04

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