Seven days are gone. Seven days of field work, learning, new impressions and new point of views. Seven days of bliss, of happiness, of personal and professional challenges. But first and foremost, as we now prepare to summarize this experience, seven days that changed our lives. Seven days we got to spend with wonderful colleagues, colleagues that are now much more than colleagues. They are friends and fellow missionaries. As Marc Beauchesne put it: “I feel a profound comfort in knowing I’m not walking alone on this road towards change.”
It’s Saturday. We’ve said our goodbyes. We leave Churchill, but we also leave a little part of our hearts behind today. We’ve shared a great experience not only with the team, but also with the researchers, the study center staff and Gretchen, our Earthwatch facilitator. We developed a shared sense of urgency, a feeling that action is necessary to preserve our planet. We have a common platform, rooted in sustainability principles.
Have we made a difference? Has this week contributed to more than opening up our eyes? We believe so. The researchers appreciated our enthusiasm and our questions. But they also appreciated the actual contribution to their research. We mapped 17 ponds and lakes in one week, a feat not possible for two researchers alone. In her final talk, LeeAnn Fishback, the lead scientist of the project we’ve been working on, thanked us for visiting Churchill and for us energy and devotion to her research project. But she also gave us one final task: Go out and tell about this research. We need to make more people aware of climate change, and of the changes we already start to see in the Arctic as a result of global warming.
Though we came from such diverse countries as sunny Suriname and windy Iceland, we all enjoyed the outdoors experience, and as Naomi Homison put it: “I usually seek warm places, and I’m not used to the climate here, but I see there is such a beauty in this cold, rainy Arctic landscape. A beauty I will take with me and remember when the weather is not on the sunny side.”
The trip has changed all our lives in one way or the other. Some of us have given a PowerPoint presentation for the first time in our life. For others, it’s been a travel inwards. We see our surroundings differently. We value the nature in a new way. And as Anna Maria Drasliaki put it: “We all feel honored to have met people like Amanda Winegardner, LeeAnn Fishback and Nick Lunn, researchers who have such a passion for their work, and who put all their heart and strength into creating a better tomorrow for us and for our children. Going back home, we will get working on our action projects, and through them, we hope to bring what we have learned this week back to our communities and Alcoa.
We didn’t see any polar bears, but somehow that became less important. We started this blog by telling you about the Swiss cheese wetland landscape of Churchill. As we flew back over Winnipeg, the distance between the wild Arctic experience, and our everyday lives became clear. The squared patches of industrial farming land surrounding Winnipeg will stick with us as an image not only of a trip ending, and of a travel from the wild Arctic into civilization, but also of a new and longer journey starting. Now is the real beginning, it’s now the real work starts.