Let’s talk about ice

Liv Arnesen visited the Seattle area. Photo: Christy Olsen Field.

Liv Arnesen visited the Seattle area. Photo: Christy Olsen Field.

Norwegian polar experts discuss climate research in Seattle, Wash.

On Feb. 21, the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Seattle welcomed board members from the Thor Heyerdahl Institute for a presentation and discussion on climate change on Feb. 21 in Seattle, Wash. The event is part of the Chamber’s ongoing Visiting Lecture Series, and was held at Swedish Hospital in Ballard.

The Thor Heyerdahl Institute board was in the region for “Our Thirsty Planet,” the biennial Wang Symposium at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.

The evening featured two presentations by Institute board members Willy Østreng and Liv Arnesen.

Professor Willy Østreng serves as senior researcher and chairman of the research institute Ocean Futures in Oslo as the vice-president of the Norwegian Academy, and he discussed the commerce opportunities that are made available by the melting ice. Though the Arctic appears forbidding with its sub-zero temperatures and year-round sea ice, the possibilities of transpolar shipping are of high interest to the world’s large economic players such as Russia, China, the U.S. and Europe.

“We often think of the Arctic as on the margins of the globe, when in fact it is the center,” said Østreng.

The Arctic lies above North America, Asia and Europe, which produces 80 percent of the world’s manufacturing and industrial output. Traditional routes of moving goods is through the Panama and Suez canals. By using transpolar shipping routes over the Arctic, the transportation distances (and costs) of shipping to different markets is greatly reduced.

Though melting ice holds great promises for shipping, the combination of ice and oil is a dangerous mix, pointed out Østreng. Concerns for the environmental effects and indigenous people were brought up during the question and answer session after Østreng’s presentation.

Renowned polar explorer Liv Arnesen presented next, sharing her passion for exploring and education. As a young child, Arnesen dreamed of crossing Anarctica as an adult, but she wasn’t encouraged to pursue it because it “was a boy’s dream.”

At the age of 41 in 1994, Arnesen accomplished her goal: She made international headlines by becoming the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole, a 50-day expedition of 745 miles. In 2001, Arnesen and American polar explorer Ann Bancroft became the first women to ski and sail across Antarctica, a 94-day expedition of 1,717 miles.

As an educator, Arnesen is dedicated to encouraging young people to follow their dreams, even if it seems impossible. The educational component is very important in Arnesen’s expedition, as young people all over the world follow her through the internet.

In November 2012, Arnesen and five other women around the world – each representing a different continent – will cross Antarctica to raise awareness about water.

“We will be a catalyst for change in awareness on our planet’s fresh water crisis. Our goal is to reach 50 million youth with our curriculum on water,” said Arnesen.

Approximately 40 people were in the audience with. One highlight of the evening was a special birthday cake and a song for HM King Harald, who turned 75 years old on Feb. 21.

The evening was sponsored by the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Seattle, Royal Norwegian Consulate, Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Swedish Medical Center Ballard and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

This article originally appeared in the Mar. 2, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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