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September 16th, 2010
Today we hoisted the sails for the first time and I fell in love with sailing: the ropes and pulleys, the way we had to all work together to lift up those massive sails bit by bit, and then the grace with which the boat drifted through the water propelled by wind, soundless, as though we were suddenly flying.
A lovely soft snow was falling, and as we sailed I was allowed a stretch of time at the wheel. The boat takes time to respond to the wheel being turned, so (as Renske pointed out) “you must be patient.” I’d turn and turn the wheel and David would say “OK, now she’s coming round” and I wondered how long it might take me at that wheel before I too could sense the motion of the boat. I found myself entranced by the balancing act of keeping her on coarse, and I understood why some folks spend their entire lives at sea.
September 19th, 2010
Another lovely, magical day! The morning was bathed in a positively supernatural silver light, which seemed to engulf the landscape from all directions at once. I interviewed Kevin about his environmental activism, and learned that the United States is largely responsible for international failure to produce a workable treaty addressing climate change. What a fascinating time to be alive, truly an unprecedented turning point in human history!
This afternoon we hiked along a mountainside toward a distant glacier, finding absolutely miraculous signs of life – bright orange lichen, emerald green moss, and even Arctic dandelions – poking through the snow amongst patches of ice. Truly extraordinary!
And there were moments of supernatural silence, akin to what the silence of outer space must sound like. It was a perfectly still day, motionless, no wind at all; and here there are no sounds of human civilization nor any sounds of nature beyond the lap of ocean water and the occasional calling songs of birds.
September 21st, 2010
Today the boat pitched and reeled on the waves, apparently battling against wind to reach some interesting locations. We have now been struggling against the forces of nature for four or five days in a row, going around and around in circles, enforcing the fact of our vulnerability to the natural world, which is so much stronger than we are. Things I’m Learning in the Arctic, Part II

15. Some words of advice on steering a sailboat:
– keep her steady on course
– avoid icebergs
– be patient
– don’t look down, you’ll hurt your neck – enjoy the view!

16. Climate Change is ALREADY adversely affecting disadvantaged societies across the globe, and it is having the most disastrous effects on places and people least able to adapt, who are also the least responsible for the carbon emissions spurring the change.

17. Yet another feedback loop of climate change: vulnerable communities can’t recover from natural disasters, thus any disaster renders these communities even more vulnerable to subsequent disasters

18. Climate change affects fundamentals of HEALTH:
Water, Food, Air, Shelter, and Livelihoods

19. The United States is the main barrier preventing the manifestation of an international treaty adequately addressing climate change.

20. Waste Not, Want Not

21. If I Buckle Down and Do the Work, It’ll Get Done

22. Some Additional Effects of Melting Ice:
– Ice is what pulls the Gulf Stream of warm water North, and the Gulf Stream is what maintains the mild climate of Northwestern lands. If the Gulf Stream extension is no longer pulled by the formation of ice, the UK, Northwest Europe, and Scandinavia will all drop several degrees, becoming inhospitably cold.
– As ice melts, its albedo (its reflectivity, its power to bounce back sunlight) decreases and therefore it absorbs more heat, causing more ice to melt and absorb even more heat. Hotter oceans in turn will mean more hurricanes, as hurricanes are generated and driven by heat in the oceans.

23. The only way to learn how to do something is by doing it.

24. It is possible to survive on very, very little.

25. There is no such thing as total silence, because as long as one is living (and living is a prerequisite for hearing) one’s very being produces sound: a heartbeat, and the electric hum of one’s nervous system at work.

26. The glaciers are melting right before our very eyes, visibly and audibly, with great rolls of thunder produced by collapsing ice.


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