First of all, I am really proud to be part of the REAL Turmat family! It feels good to be part of a company which emphasizes on the quality of its products. Being a professional explorer means not doing any compromises. This mindset also applies to the brands I collaborate with.
We are at the end of October 2010, back in Norway. Børge Ousland shouts “that’s it!”. The cork of the champagne bottle goes high in the air, sure because of the pressure but it goes even higher because of our happiness. I just completed my first expedition with him and captain Thorleif Thorleiffsson, being a crew member aboard the “Northern Passage”, that 31-foot trimaran which sailed successfully around the North Pole in one single season. I am 24 years old. At that moment, I feel so stoked but also preoccupied. Why? Because of what just happened through the North-West passage.
The Northwest Passage is a route that connects the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean through the northern part of the American continent. We sailed and motor sailed through this passage in 25 days! One century earlier, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen used three years to cross this passage. No doubt that we had a faster boat, better technology and more information. However, wasn’t the lack of ice the main reason for our success? Through the Bellot Strait, that very narrow channel usually filled with ice, we progress smoothly. “Isbjørn (polar bear)!” As we approach the shore, the King of the Arctic is facing us, a few meters away. I hardly take any good photos because of my state of excitement. The bear walks away from us and looks back one last time. If I bring back that experience to my little person, I could say “what an amazing experience!”. What about if I were to do the same from a polar bear point of view?
One or two degrees of temperature difference in the Basque Country where I grew up does not really affect my life. Nonetheless, in the polar regions, this same temperature difference transforms ice into water. The polar bear is suddenly deprived of its hunting ground, the sea ice, to catch seals. It is exactly the same as if we were to remove all the supermarkets of Basque. This experience was clearly a huge eye opener and my appeal for conservation projects started growing.
So when two years later after crossing the island of Nordaustlandet in Svalbard, Børge Ousland asked if I were interested to cross some more glaciers with him in order to raise an awareness about the ice recession… it didn’t take long for me to answer. IceLegacy was born.
IceLegacy is an ongoing series of expeditions crossing the world’s 20 largest icecaps. Our goal? Exploring, documenting and raising awareness about the melting ice. It’s also about encouraging the conservation of these fragile diamonds and bridging adventure with science. But why would we need to do this? And why does ice matter? On this planet, we have two big freezers. The North Pole with the polar bears, and the South Pole with the penguins. We also have a lot of ice that regulate the earth’s temperature. If we want to give a louder voice to the ice recession, we hope IceLegacy to be a part of it.
For the past 15 years, I have been exploring remote places mainly in the polar regions. So far with Børge, we have crossed 7 of the 20 biggest icecaps. All these adventures and the fact to witness the acceleration of climate change have changed my mindset and the way I consume products. I always keep in mind the human footprint. So I am asking the question: What can I do to reduce my footprint?
It started here. A French ecologist in France named Pierre Rabhi created the Colibri movement. The legend says that one day, a big fire burns in the forest. All the animals are devastated and forced to leave. One humming bird is travelling between a river and the fire. Every time he goes to the river, he collects water in his beak. Then, he flies over the fire and drops the water, again and again. Suddenly, another animal comes to meet him and says: “What are you doing hummingbird? Are you crazy? It won’t change anything!”. The hummingbird replies: “I am trying to do my share.” So I am asking the question: what is my share, today?
From taxing myself with 1$ each time I come home with some plastic and giving it to environmental non-profits, to not buying what I don’t really need, from consuming local seasonal food to my latest effort to plant a tree each time I take the plane, I am just trying to do my share like the hummingbird because I feel sad about what’s happening to our planet. Last year, I have contributed to plant 30 trees. 20 in the village of Tarauaca in the Brazilian Amazon forest and 10 in the South West of France where I come from. However, I face the challenge of travelling the globe going to remote places and trying to reduce my carbon footprint at the same time. I talk about the environment and in the same time I am far away from being a responsible person. I am no hero.
A pessimist would say ‘’we can’t do anything! It’s all over’’ or an optimist would go ‘’everything is fine! That’s ok’’. Well in both cases, nothing gets done. To me, what matters is whether we are part of the solution or part of the problem. Being part of the solution, isn’t it a great opportunity to grow as a person, as a society and be more responsible at the same time? And what if, instead of taking a decision that will have an impact tomorrow, we consider that the impact of that decision is in hundred years from now? So we can foresee the consequences on a long term basis.
I am really convinced that corporations can help save or can reduce damaging this planet by selling cleaner products and services. It’s up to us to change them! I think that I have to become more and more aware of the efforts made by businesses fighting the environmental crisis before I buy a product. We vote every four years for a president. But with our credit card, we vote every single day!
The planet is changing. Whether or not we believe in the human impact in the climate change discussion, I think we still have all the responsibility to protect wild open spaces for our children to experience the rich ecosystems.
We have the power to change.