Seven months ago, I received an exceptional offer that would allow me to fulfill one of my dreams… going to Antarctica. I was being offered a dream job: becoming a guide on an expedition ship where I would be able to combine my scientific knowledge with my passion for the outdoors and the ocean! A job that would allow me to discover this amazing continent I had dreamed about for so many years.
My first reaction was excitement and I immediately accepted the offer. I then sat down to think about it… Since I started studying, and even before that, I have been concerned about our planet’s future. While traveling around the world on a sailboat, I was able to see the impact of human activity on the oceans. When I was doing my master’s degree, I discovered that the Antarctica Peninsula is the region most affected by a rise in global temperature. The average temperature has increased by 1°C since 19551, which is more than in any other part of the world. This has caused certain penguin colonies to decline, various species have to move further south to find a habitat to reproduce and survive during the summer. The majority of western Antarctica’s great glaciers are retreating and, according to estimates, this could lead to a rise of the water levels of 5 to 6 meters. This has contributed to a rise of 5.7 mm2 in sea levels since 1992, which corresponds to 6.5% of the total increase3. A situation that is becoming more and more worrisome according to scientists.
I still decided to leave and explore this part of the world that I was always drawn to and, with no surprise, I fell in love with this continent. It is almost impossible not to catch what is called the “polar bug”; this irrepressible need to always go back there, but also this even stronger desire to protect it… It opened my eyes and made me understand that the protection of Antarctica would succeed only by educating people and showcasing its natural beauty. I am lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to talk about climate change during my various expeditions, and to teach the passengers about the importance of changing our lifestyle. I have worked alongside guides who, like me, had felt conflicted and found a balance between traveling in these types of environment and the issue of climate change. Each year, we witness firsthand the melting of glaciers, the decline of the polar ice cap, the changing of the climate and the impact it has on the penguin colonies for example. By having the opportunity to witness these changes, we are able to tell a story and explain the changes that are slowly altering Antarctica. Also, a big part of our job is to present these various issues and provide potential solutions.
So, coming back to my initial dilemma, working as a guide on a cruise ship isn’t the most sustainable. However, the influence we have on the tourists we take on this tour and what they can learn from it is even more important for the future, especially regarding the behavior they will take on when they return. Having visited Antarctica and learned about the fragility of its ecosystem, they feel a sense of attachment that give them a reason to change their habits. Refraining from traveling isn’t the solution to reducing our environmental impact, but traveling consciously surely is.
Leaving for Antarctica has changed my life and allowed me to appreciate even more of the environment that I want to protect, whatever the cost. Every time we travel, it is important to bring a lesson back home and, as a guide, I feel like I am doing my part. The satisfaction of knowing that l am making a positive impact on the world overcomes the doubt that I felt when I first started working as a tour guide.
Discovering Antarctica, https://discoveringantarctica.org.uk/challenges/sustainability/impacts-of-climate-change/
Andrew Shepherd, Lin Gilbert, Alan S. Muir, Hannes Konrad, Malcolm McMillan, Thomas Slater, Kate H. Briggs, Aud V. Sundal, Anna E. Hogg et Marcus Engdahl. ‘’Trends in Antarctic Ice Sheet Elevation and Mass’’, 16 Mai 2019.
Global sea levels have risen 8cm since 1992, Nasa research shows, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/27/global-sea-levels-have-climbed-8cm-since-1992-nasa-research-shows, Août 2015.