Experts including filmmaker, Anthony Powell will speak from Antarctica’s icy realm to raise awareness of climate change and celebrate the 60 year anniversary of Scott Base.
Words: Christine De Felice
The world’s southernmost continent will be the location for a very special event this January. In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of New Zealand’s official presence in Antarctica, TEDxScottBase is being held at Scott Base Antarctica on Sunday, January 15 and will feature ten international speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds and interests.
The aim is to highlight climate change, celebrate science and embrace forward thinking, with these talented and influential people providing a variety of viewpoints on the environmental challenges the world is facing. The event will play a crucial role in raising awareness about climate change, and other profound issues across the world, Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Peter Beggs says.
The speakers, who include scientists and researchers, a photographer, a filmmaker, a journalist (wife of Jacque Cousteau’s grandson Philippe), an astronaut and an award-winning musician, offer a phenomenal combination of expertise says event curator Kaila Colbin.
“The scientists have committed most of their adult lives to understanding the dynamic nature of the icy continent and how Antarctica’s clues to past climates can inform our understanding of the way the world is changing now,” Kaila says. “[Astronaut] Dan Barry’s time in space has given him a perspective that very few can match, and Ashlan Cousteau has an unparalleled ability to combine science, environmentalism and entertainment. It’s going to be an outstanding and extremely diverse event.”
Unlike other TEDx events held in other countries, however, this one will not be open to the public. Only those who are in Antarctica on scientific research missions will be able to attend the live event. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be available for everyone around the world to see. On Sunday, January 22 the entire event will be broadcast across the globe via the internet at website www.antarcticanz.govt.nz. There will also be live viewing events led by TEDxScottBase hosts during that day.
One of the presenters, who will be speaking from first-hand experience of Antarctica over an extended period of time – 114 months, including ten winters, is multi-award-winning New Zealand filmmaker Anthony Powell. His documentary Antarctica: A Year on Ice brought together footage he had collected over 10 years documenting the daily lives of the people who live and work on the ice through the changing seasons, keeping the bases running. Anthony has also contributed footage to many films and TV shows, including programmes on National Geographic and Discovery channels, and he featured in the Emmy award-winning BBC series Frozen Planet.
In documenting environmental changes that have taken place in Antarctica, he says many of those that have occurred in the Scott Base area are not immediately apparent to the naked eye. “It is far enough south that with temperatures not often getting above freezing, changes in the surrounding ice are quite subtle. I have personally noticed how the degree of annual surface melt on the ice shelf appears to have increased. However, on a wider scale, Antarctica is seeing massive changes. It is the proverbial canary in the coal mine, and the canary has fallen off the perch and is fluttering about at the bottom of the cage.”
So, should New Zealand and other nations be doing more to protect Antarctica as well as addressing climate change? Anthony says that as one of the founding nations of the Antarctic Treaty, New Zealand has a great history in Antarctica and an impressive catalogue of scientific papers and discoveries. “Carefully recorded observations from 60 years of continuous operations at Scott Base are proving to be an amazing ongoing resource for scientists still working there now. I think Antarctica itself is being well looked after in terms of operations there, with continually improving environmental protocols. Where we are failing is in the damage being done remotely back at home in the rest of the world.”
Anthony says he and the other speakers hope TEDxScottBase will raise a greater awareness of Antarctica, what the global environmental issues are, and what we can do about them. “Climate change is not something that is just a cause for tree-hugging hippies. It is a hard scientific reality that we are all facing. We are already too late to avoid many of the effects of climate change. It is more a case of how much effort we are willing to put in to minimise the damage. As individuals, we can all make small changes that can make a difference, but the big changes need to come from the government and energy sectors.”
“Making it easy to have home electricity generation systems like solar roofs that can feed excess power back into the grid without prohibitive connection fees, investing in renewable energy rather than new fossil fuel sources and stopping the use of coal as soon as possible are big ones that come to mind.”
“The world acted fairly fast to counter the damage being done to the ozone layer, and it appears to be finally repairing itself, so it can be done if there is willingness.”
For further information on the speakers, global screening times and a full Q&A about TEDxScottBase go to www.tedxscottbase.com