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Sustainability

My time in Spitsbergen, North Pole

May 16, 2018 | Tim Kreukniet

“We are basically screwed, but thank God for optimism.” That’s how my trip to Spitsbergen started. Sitting next to a European Space Agency climate scientist, having a cheerful discussion about the future of our planet. I had the privilege of joining the Dutch Financial sector on their trip to the Spitsbergen, led by Bernice Notenboom — the last person to travel to the North Pole by sled.

The trip offered some very strong juxtaposition — on the one side was the sheer beauty of Spitsbergen. The 24 hours of unbroken daylight. The white mountain formations that rose straight from the water. The imposing glaciers that surrounded us. The pristine blue water. The cold clarity of the sky. It is truly an awe-inspiring depiction of nature’s extremity.

On the other side, things were a bit more grim. We saw with our own eyes the dramatic changes to these massive glaciers — where it was 30 years ago and how it lost nearly 3 km. Mark explained how glaciers are receding at a record speed of 40 meters a day, and how we only have 560 gigaton of carbon left to pass the 2 degrees tipping point (the oil and gas assets of Shell alone account for more than that). 

The trip was a very grounding experience. The start coincided with Earth Day — a day where we saw multiple companies vow to aid in the reduction of carbon emissions. One of the best examples in the mobility sector is Lyft going Carbon Neutral for their entire operations — including all their rides.

I applaud this move, and hope that more companies will follow their example, because quite frankly, we need to step up our efforts. In essence, for every business and personal decision we make, we should no longer just look at cost or utility, but also carbon.

I went to Spitsbergen to learn more in depth about the climate, and I learned a lot. It made me more conscious, more quiet, and more motivated. The optimist in me believes in a positive outcome, however radical behavior change is needed.

So let’s look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I willing to do what it takes to reduce my carbon footprint by 80% in the next year?” Because that’s what it’s going to take if we want to preserve locations like Spitsbergen for the next generation.

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