For Masdar Institute of Science and Technology students Reem Al Junaibi and Maitha Al Kaabi, traveling half way across the globe to Antarctica has provided an opportunity to reflect on the future of our planet.With respective interests in renewable energy and water issues, the pair left their warm desert environs to spend 16 days touring the frozen frontier, where they hope to gain insight that will further their research in Abu Dhabi.
After a long plane ride and a stopover in Buenos Aires, they finally landed in Ushuaia – the world’s southernmost city in Argentina, and then Reem began to reflect on their combined experience through a series of short journal entries recently published in The National.
The day after they arrived in Ushuaia, Reem and Maitha climbed with the other expedition members to the top of Martial Glacier, where polar explorer Sir Robert Swan was waiting for them. In order to get there, everyone had to be tied together by rope and were required to walk at the same pace.
As with dominoes, if one person fell, everyone else was affected.
Particularly striking is the degree to which Reem finds metaphors in their experience, which she uses to make sense of the challenges that humanity faces.
“This activity is a kind of a metaphor for the real world,” Reem wrote. “We can look at sustainability as the top of the mountain and ourselves as different companies or nations. We all need to reach the top but we are tied together. The only way we could reach the top was by collaboration and looking out for each other.”
Martial Glacier dissolved
Reaching the end of the glacier trek was both exhilarating for the Emirati explorers and disheartening. While they were pleased with their physical accomplishments, seeing that the glacier has dissolved into no more than a giant pile of snow as a result of global was disappointing.
After completing their tour of the Antarctic’s gateway city, the time came for the pair to set sail on the Sea Spirit, which Reem says is more like a 5 star hotel. The initial trip through Drake’s Passage is notoriously difficult and the crew had to make do with finite quantities of food, water, and other essentials.
“We will pass the Drake Passage and it is hard to predict how the weather will be,” Reem’s entry in The National reads. “It is like travelling to the unknown. So we have to consume every luxury we have with utmost care. This is similar to what the world is facing. We have finite resources and we are all on a ship travelling to the unknown.”
The burden of privilege
No other place on earth encapsulates the drastic impact that climate change is having on the planet as deeply as Antarctica, so the privilege of being there must be accompanied by the burden so often associated with unsavory knowledge.
Only a handful of Emirati nationals have been given the opportunity to wrestle with this complicated gift, but then again, few are as equipped as Reem and Maitha to turn it into sustainable action.
The intrepid explorers are expected to return to Abu Dhabi on March 16th, 2012.
:: The National
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