This last November SCARPA athlete and polar explorer Eric Larsen completed his Save the Poles expedition – and epic trip involving reaching both the North and South Pole and the summit of Mount Everest in a calendar year to raise awareness of Global Warming.
He placed himself in the some of the world’s most remote, and otherwise most inhospitable environments to show why they’re worth saving. Through his efforts he’s garnered attention on the world stage. Now, months after his journey, we got him to answer a few questions about what it means to realize a major life goal.
Q – You’ve successfully completed the expedition. You’ve been interviewed and celebrated in the media. Was it what you expected? Do you feel you drew the kind of attention you sought for regarding global warming?
EL – Honestly, I expected I would be able to promote more climate change initiatives—solutions to the problem of global warming. Instead I spend a lot of my time simply verifying that, yes, these places are indeed melting. I had substantial media coverage, but there is definitely more I can do. This story isn’t finished yet.
Q – How did you first get the idea to raise awareness of global warming through this year-long expedition?
EL – As someone who has traveled to many of the places where climate change is having a direct effect, I have long realized that this is an issue we all need to be more concerned about. In 2006, I was traveling to the North Pole and was surprised at the amount of open water and thinness of the ice. I also realized that an expedition was a powerful platform to provide ‘boots on the ground’ first-hand observations, as well as a platform to promote awareness, but more importantly, action on what we all need to do to protect our environment for future generations.
Q – What were the biggest hurdles in bringing together this kind of project?
EL – The hurdles are almost too numerous to list here. First and foremost, fundraising for polar expeditions is prohibitively expensive. The sums of money involved are ridiculously large. Now compound that with trying to raise the necessary funds during one of the worst financial crises in our history and you can begin to understand just a few of the many obstacles. I spent nearly four years training, developing gear, pitching sponsors and more, so just staying motivated on one simple goal was quite a challenge. For a while it seemed like everything was against me. I had several personal struggles during that time and as hard as the actual physical journeys were, the preparations were a roller coaster of emotions.
There were a lot of naysayers, too. People who couldn’t or wouldn’t see the benefit of my efforts. Then there is the fact that I had never climbed an 8,000 meter peak before, and had minimal mountaineering experience. Coordinating on logistics, training, finding team members, developing long-term media partnerships, getting people to believe in me and my project. Honestly, I am surprised I was able to pull it off.
Q – Any epiphanies along the way? How have they shaped the way you now look at the world?
EL – I’m pretty much the same person that I was before I left on these three expeditions, but I am also forever changed. It’s hard not to come out of something like that with a more holistic view of the world (and people) around you. Seeing other perspectives, being uncomfortable, witnessing first-hand the effect of our actions on the environment. These have had profound impacts on me, and how I choose to live my life. For starters, I’ve realized that we cannot put off ‘change’ any longer. We need to act now to reduce carbon emissions. From a personal perspective, I appreciate things more; I think it comes from living without for so long.
Q – Have there been any strides by the public in support of global warming as a result? What can people do to show their support?
EL – That’s a difficult question. I think public support of climate change has waned considerably in the past few years. I’d like to think my expedition has had a huge affect on people’s desire to look at their own actions and make decisions based on how much carbon they are producing.
In reality, I think the biggest success of my expedition has simply been to keep this conversation relevant, provide an honest assessment of the current changes that are happening in these places, and hopefully inspire (and remind) people that we are all capable of something amazing. In terms of support, we need to be reminded to take individual steps as well as promote national initiatives for energy efficiency, mass transportation, carbon reduction measure and renewable energy. For more information you can visit: http://ericlarsenexplore.com/globalwarming/
Q – What does the future have in store for you?
EL – Trying to live a normal life? Seriously, I want to give the Save the Poles expedition its due diligence. I’m working on a book, documentary and lecture series. My goal is to continue to connect people to these frozen places, show them how they are changing, and what they can do to protect them. I want to remind people that ‘it’s cool to be cold’. Of course, I’ve got some other expedition plans in the works too…