On the frozen shores of Ny-Alesund the icebergs wash ashore even in the height of summer. The summer population swells to 130 people and the sun never dips below the jagged mountains. Now, as September turns the days shorter the town population begins to recede like the days, in the height of winter there will be only 30 people here.
Ny-Alesund is the world’s Northern most research center, located only 1,200 km from the North Pole. [Polar Institute image] People come from all over the world to this remote town, precisely for its remoteness. The clean air, clear skies, and pristine waters create one of the most accurate places to record atmospheric, astronomical, and oceanic measurements. Everyone here is deeply passionate about the work they are conducting.
I have come to this town as part of the Capefarewell Expedition to the Arctic. This project is designed to help foster a “cultural response” to climate change. The logic of the project is that the science behind climate change is clear, yet human culture is not responding to meet the changes the science declares necessary. This signals not a flaw in the science, but a flaw in communication.
This expedition marks the 9th voyage Capefarewell has coordinated, bringing artists and scientists together to the remote front lines of the climate crisis. Scientists are the messengers for the planet – bringing us the most sophisticated knowledge we can gather. Likewise, artists are the communicators of the planet – digesting information and presenting it in new ways. The idea at the base of the Capefarewell project is that by bringing artists and scientists together, we can begin to bridge the gaps in communicating the science of climate change. Human culture has created this unprecedented rise in CO2 production; so culture must be engaged to reduce it.
One of the many projects of the town is its atmospheric research. Perched high above the town is a weather station that looks more like the hide-away for some movie-script villain than a place of research. A single cable car lifts a single scientist to and from the station each day. They limit human interference in the station to the bare minimum, for even the breath the scientists affects the data being recorded. Their instruments are that sensitive.
A problem arises from this isolation – and it demands your help. While these scientists are true heroes – diligently providing the trustworthy and measured information about the makeup of our planet’s atmosphere – they are not necessarily the best communicators. They are, after all, in the middle of nowhere and their days are rather full from gathering such precise data. They need our help to turn the science into concrete political and social action. That is why October 10th, and your part in it, is so important. It calls together many voices – from the scientists of Ny-Alesund to the youth of the Maldives – into a common call for action. While none of us can be everywhere at once, together we can cover as much ground as possible. What are you doing on October 10th this year?
Here in Ny-Alesund, we sent the 350 message directly where needs to be – into the atmosphere! The Capefarewell crew was invited to attend the launch of a weather balloon. This balloon launch, timed to coincide with an identical launch happening in Antarctica, will provide the station with an accurate atmospheric reading every second. We were invited to write our messages upon the box, so we decided to send 350 straight to the place where it belongs. If only it were that easy…