Had a great experience over the Arctic and North Pole this last week after spending a couple of days in OSLO Norway sharing policy proposals with relevant Arctic governing bodies, speaking at the Economist ARCTIC SUMMIT, and negotiating about the issue of sustainability for the forward racing Arctic economic development.
Because this time around it’s the Arctic whose economic development will far surpass that of Africa as the little engine that can pull us all forward and out of recession and stagnating employment across the world. By the way, the Arctic economic development is not something far into the future and this article and all our associated work is not gazing at the runes and forecasting. It is not economic outlook either. This is dealing with development that has already started — now that the ice has melted and it’s a veritable Gold Rush like no other on the face of this earth. A gold rush mainly fueled by the search for hydrocarbons – but there is much more to the story than that. The Boom is on and a Boon it is. That much is clear. Yet we haven’t set up the relevant parameters and the standards for the kind of development we want to see taking p[lace in the Arctic. We need developmental standards that will allow us to do it right and not recreate the failed African development model up North. Because way up North, things are different. And seeing the long term African Investment Capital return trends is an exercise in wondrous disbelief. Not a great story to tell there. And if you add to it the environmental devastation we wrought in Africa due to the exploitative and resource based nature of our unreasonable investment and development expectations along with our great focus on the brown economy -- one can see the failures being compounded. This time around we don't have fifty years of trial and error and we need to get it right from the get go. Not only because doing it right -- is the only way we can succeed in this most unforgiving environment, but by measuring all inputs and outputs, and thus accounting for the externalities; thereby taking into account the values of all ecosystem services -- we will succeed in documenting Great Returns. And where great expectations have been placed -- great returns are seldom assured, as is the case with African investments. But in the Arctic things are different. So that is why we need Sustainable Development standards for the Arctic. Because we need the kind of development standards that adhere to the future needs of the Arctic and not just to the past. We need development standards that allow for all beneficient development that doesn't spoil the ecosystem. We need economic development and prosperity for the indigenous people just as much as we need to ensure access for all the others. We need economic development that takes into account the millions of species of plant and animal life existent on the Arctic. And we need to stop thinking of the native populations as some sort of noble savages, but we should rather see them for what they are: Reasonable economic agents just like you and me, searching for their ideal selfish interests in a booming marketplace...
And it's refreshing to see that we all agree on that. We all agree on that. Amazing... We need that kind of development. And we need to get it done right. Signposting the rules of the road will save us all capital, lives and pain, going forward... And by keeping in mind that the battle over development in the North Pole will not be won by the oil majors, no matter how hard they try, we will allow the other models of incessant economic growth to evolve. Because the Arctic is a resilient host and fully able to defend itself against Moby Dick types of intruders. Of course we'll help any way we can but we will not wage the battle alone. Because after four hundred years of exploitation and oil related development, the Arctic and the North Pole have seen it all. From the seal hunters clubbing the seals for their blubber to boil it for oil and then to sell it across the world, to light the lamps of people around the world, since the biggest commodity then was seal oil for lighting, to the whalers similarly harvesting whales massively for their whale oil ass it was a great source of thermal energy and agin for human lighting needs, to today's exploitation for mineral oil... The seal and the whale oil trade didn't stop because the Arctic run out of seals or whales for that matter. Nor is the current oil frenzy will end because we will run out of oil anymore than the stone age finished because we run out of stones. This current crazy hunt for mineral oil and the burning of it to power our carbon based economies will surely end because we will recognize the power of the sun to give us free harvestable energy. This is the ultimate nuclear energy power plant and is located at a safe distance from our planet. The benevolent and all encompassing sun powered through the process of fission -- it emits plenty of energy in the form of radiation that allows all Life to take hold and exist upon this earth. So why can't we imitate the plants and animals like our physical beings and harvest this bountiful energy and instead we burn things up like idiots to get our cup of tea?
So am not afraid of the Arctic and the North Pole being driven to destruction by the oilers today, anymore than the previous generations of oilers managed to do it either -- but am concerned about the global ecosystem as a whole. And although the Arctic and the pole haven't been virgin for the last 400 years of oil related development, they are not the equivalent of a Bangkok hooker either. Ice or no ice, a balance in sustainable development has to be observed keeping in mind that the harsh Northern climes and the ferocious intensity of the winter up here has a way of defending itself against misbehaving intruders and tourists alike...
Because in the Arctic development story -- much like in Africa -- things aren't always as they seem to be.
Still we must mourn the passing of an era: Because the 'SWAN SONG' OF THE NORTH POLE ICE CAP HAS STARTED in earnest...
The situation on the North Pole is dire: The sea ice is now too thin to resist the waves of a stormy ocean. As a result, the waves peel off the sea ice and breaks it from one end of the ocean to the other. NASA observatory as well as the US Navy wikileaks suggest that all of North Pole sea ice cap is going to be gone this summer: http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2013/03/10/giant-break-in-arctic-ice-due-to-higher-temperatures-storms/
Yet, when I spoke in Oslo about that inevitable reality -- I made quite a few new enemies in the old guard of hearty environmentalists who cannot see that their orthodoxy is of no use in today's fast evolving world. The natives up north understand far better what's to come and have enough resiliency built in their system to know that the current crop of oilers will not last any longer than the sealers and the whalers before them did. So they want to grab whatever money they can get out of the oil majors and bid them fare well. Who can blame them? Show me the Money is as old a day-game as any on the face of this Casino called earth.
So Oslo bred some discontent amongst my misguided friends and cheers from my enemies, but they both rejoice for the wrong reasons, because they fail to understand my Strategy. Well, so be it. Make some people happy, make some people sad - you can't win over everybody. No use in trying... Other than that it was all great because I ruffled the feathers in all directions and left people wondering and thinking...
Thinking is good engagement sometimes. I highly recommend it.
All was good though in the end, because I saw all the new friends and old friends with whom we met and met again. The Economist staff was great too, and their kindness and care about the issues affecting the Arctic reassuring. The British ambassador is quite a lady cut from the same old Maggie cloth, and her house hospitable and grand. The old ship Fram was a sight to behold and the ghosts of old explorers are now lodged firmly -- with me forever. Best of them all Singleton's ghost keeping me company, as am trekking up north in their footsteps.
Ofcourse these days we use airplanes and helicopters and modern conveniences when we go up North to the Pole to gather ice core samples... But still a journey to the Pole is a milestone even today.
We set off flying further North to Tromsø. That is, after my talks in Oslo were concluded and my well received presentation at the Arctic Summit sunk in, along with our release of the White Arctic Sustainable Development Policy Standards. This Arctic Summit is the first and finest nexus of government, industry and academia discourse about the Hows, the Whys, and the Whens of opening up the Arctic for serious Development now that the ice has melted. And Kudos to the Arctic Summit leaders and staff, for the fact that these issues were transparently discussed and brought on to the public domain as an intelligent conversation by the venerable Economist with the support of the Norwegian government. http://cemea.economistconferences.com/event/arctic-summit/arctic-speakers#.UUQoUmthiSM
Having gathered all the necessary insights, having distributed our Sustainable Development Policy for the Arctic and having dispensed with some of our wisdom as well, it was time to take advantage of the opportunity presented by us being this far North, this time of the year.
We had already planned this ice core collecting expedition a few months ago and now we put skin to the teeth and headed for the polar North. The true North, the geographic North, the Magnetic North -- all poles of distinction that keep moving around, except the Geographic one... that chooses to stay put in place. As in Putin land where it resides under the Russian bear's loving embrace.
So we headed way up North to the launching pad for the Arctic and the North Pole -- same as the many earlier explorers had done. People started their Arctic journey and the Pole conquest from Tromso more than a couple of centuries before me. This is, because the city of Tromso is the penultimate Arctic gateway within the Arctic. A great little civilized town in the Arctic circle with a fabulous wealth of life and cold comforts... Somewhere it was called Paris of the North, but if walking out of town into the forest nets you a bear sighting, then Paris it is like walking into Bois de Boulogne nets you a different naked beauty bear sighting. Less hairy - equally dangerous as far as beasts of pleasure are concerned... Enough with the parallels - you get the who have departed for the Spirit world
But Tromso is truly special because it is the best place in the world for seeing the Tromsø Northern Lights [Aurora Borealis]. And in that way it justifies the name as Paris of the North because it really is the city of lights – Arctic Lights that is. After seeing this for half the night we fell asleep fairly certain of success in all our expeditionary and all of the Environmental Parliament endeavours. Better yet, the others fell asleep while I froze off watching the night lights of the Aurora and seeing what our Sami shaman told me a few hours earlier: “If you watch the sky lights carefully you will hear and talk to the loved ones.. Those who have departed for the spirit world. And if you really keen — you just might get to see them too. So I did stay, watching the enchanting Aurora – to talk to the little one… I suppose many a man have been found frozen adhering to the old Sami shamanic belief watching the dance of the heavenly lights, entranced by the Aurora borealis lasciviousness, and soul stealing beauty. Thank God my comrades, came and dragged me off the roof – before I froze to death – lost in reverie.
Still this was an auspicious beginning, because of the splendid send off and the timeless wisdom gathered from Nature’s rare festival of Night Lights…
Magnificent sight. A soft distant sky dancing curtain of light – like a fairy bend to behold your heart…
A small view of the lights from an icelandic lake at about the same parallel as Tromso can be found here: http://vimeo.com/62124710
And off we were North again by plane to Spitzbergen.
And since we had planned that expedition to take place this time of the year from northern Norway — we would naturally take the Polar expeditionary flight. Our aim was to be in the absolute North and walk on and see for ourselves, the state of the Arctic ice on the North Pole. So, we started off from Tromsø.
Because seeing the current state of our Global Thermostat and collecting ice cores from the exact North Pole, in the year that is projected to be ice free and thus scientifically assess the possibilities is a treasure for humanity. After all, the Arctic sea ice glacier surrounding the Polar North represents this global thermostat, and it’s demise is a cause for concern as we are moving to another plateau in Climate Change and it rightfully makes one deeply concerned. Also it makes me feel very interested and connected in the life up north on it’s own right, and not only as it is connected to our own world too. And this is key because it is connected with our values and principles for the preservation of our long-term well-being and fulfillment. It makes us realize that we are doubly intertwined both as a member of the species and as a human awed by nature’s creation, and this is the large part of this miracle we call Life…
Now make no mistake the polar region is harsh… but it is miraculous as well.
All great Nordic expeditions started from here in Tromsø: Seal oil hunting and later whaling oil extraction had started off since the mid 17th century, but by the end of the 19th century, Tromsø had become a major Arctic trade center. So it felt natural that from here started many Arctic expeditions. Explorers like Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile and Fridtjof Nansen made use of the polar infrastructure, the Arctic know-how in Tromsø, the sailors experienced on the conditions in the Arctic, and the North Pole and that’s why they came to launch their ships from here and recruited their crew in the city. Another reason these fabulous expeditions originated from here is in my humble opinion the existence of the Northern lights. Such a splendour of nature that nowhere else can one behold in it’s infinite variety and easiness. It’s no accident that the Northern Lights observatory was founded here in 1927 because this is the best place to witness the Aurora Borealis and try to understand the physics behind this heart warming phenomenon. It is Tromso more than anyplace in the world, where one can study the Arctic and today most Arctic and North Polar reasearch still gets started here. This in effect is the launching pad for the Arctic… and I chose to originate our journey here as well.
So in a long line of Explorers, we start from here, this land’s end …. and in the next few posts, I’ll let you in on what happened on our journey North to the Pole. Better say Poles… because there is plenty of them.
We flew first from Oslo to Tromso and then on to Spitzbergen island, deep in the Arctic and landed at Longyearboyen airport for our last refueling… before we headed for an ice landing in the Geographic North…
The eerie landscape of the North pole is something to behold… But I won’t bore you with details of the whiteness and the marvels of life up here — you’ve got Jack London for that — only of our conversations, great or small as they were:
Because up here in the top of the world the North pole represents, and amidst the peaceful white expanses one can contemplate the real life of humanity passing through in our fragile ecosystem of our small bluish planet…
And up here in the extreme North, the Environmental Parliament scientists and Governors, while drilling and extracting ice cores for unending hours — we talked and talked briskly. Because you can’t waste your precious breath up here… Thus we talked only about serious shit. The stuff that matters the most. We talked about our need for a sense of unity as our global problems are getting worse and we have become enemies of our planet and of each other.
It’s easy up here to put things in perspective being as far removed as possible from our everyday world and still within the body of this earth…
Thus we got talking about what extremes we have in our lives besides the climatic extremities, and we noticed the antithetical nature of progress…
We revisited the paradoxes of our lives: from the most obvious to the most arcane…
Why is it that at this very time in history we have more science and yet less willingness to follow what’s obviously right?
Why is it that we are far more cognizant of the manifold benefits of Peace and yet far more eager to engage in war for oil and other resources?
Why is it that we have great medicine but more health problems than ever?
Why is it that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers?
Why do we have far wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints?
Why do we spend way more capital in acquiring things, but have far less of what truly matters?
Why do we buy more stuff, but enjoy our lives a lot less?
Why do we have great big houses and yet smaller or no families and far fewer real friends?
Why do we have more conveniences, but no time to enjoy the sunset and the sunrise?
Why do we have more knowledge and advanced college and Uni degrees but a lot less common sense?
Why do we have more laws and legal knowledge, but less proper judgment?
Why do we have more experts, yet more problems arise each and every day?
Why do we have far more Doctors of Medicine, but our health is severely impacted and we are all experiencing less wellness.
Why do we drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom?
Why have we multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values?
Why do we talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often?
And why that although we have learned how to make a living, we cannot structure decent, honest, to goodness lives?
And why although we have added years to life we haven’t been able to add real meaningful life to our years, and instead we waste our hard earned life expectancy watching TV?
Why is it that we have been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet and greet a new neighbour or help the person who needs our help?
Why when we are all engaged in philanthropy we are making a big hue and cry about our giving and we institutionalize it to thus perpetuate our name when this is exactly the antithesis of the point of selfless charity and quiet anonymous giving?
Why is it that now that we have conquered outer space we haven;t made an inroad to conquering the inner space?
Why is it that although we have done far larger things, than ever before, we haven’t focused on doing better things?
Why is it that now we’ve fouled up the air, and polluted the soul, consider ourselves rich?
Why is it that now that we’ve conquered the atom, we cannot conquer our prejudices?
Why is it that we write more, yet we learn less?
Why is it that we plan more, but accomplish less?
Why is it that now we’ve learned to rush and live fast, we forgot how to wait and gain the virtues of patience?
Why is that we now have build more computer databases and server farms, to hold more information, to produce more copies, clone our data, deal with big data complexity, and have more access to it all than ever, but we have divorced ourselves from the real knowledge –
The deep knowing of the spirit?
Why is it that we now have many social network utilities and thousands of FB friends, and yet we communicate less and less and have far fewer real friends than ever before?
Why is it that during these are the times of fast food and slow troublesome digestion?
Why is the fallacy of big ambition but small ideals suffers all nations and leaders?
Why do we get governed by big men of small character?
Why do we seek steep profits and shallow citizenship?
How can we reconcile tremendous wealth and extreme poverty?
How come we have more social programs and yet far more people uncared for?
Why do we have lots more sex yet no real meaningful relationships?
Why are these the days of two income families but more divorces?
Why do we end up living in fancier houses but more broken homes?
Aren’t we going to be remembered in these times as the societies of mountains of garbage to parallel our illogical consumption, our quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill?
Is it any wonder then that we describe this as the time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom, as we ravage the planet to get our quick fixes?
Yet like all crises it is also a time of opportunity. Because this time around is also a time when our technology, our economy, our way of Life, can either save us or destroy us — depending entirely on how we choose to use it…
So here is a bit of wisdom from way up North:
First and foremost: Practice kindness. Make this our ultimate religion. Be kind to yourself first and then to all others. Follow that with being kind to all creatures great and small and go to extend your kindness to all creation. Plants, animals, species of life we can’t even recognize — and above all, be kind to your heart. Follow her wisshes and live by her best interests, because she knows How Kindness Works miracles.
When people ask me, I always tell them; Kindness is my religion. So remember, to practice it, because kindness is a habit nurtured daily. A way of being and a means to a rather selfish end – happiness. Because Kindness leads inexorably to hapiness. Take my word for it or follow my example. Either way slow down when faced with any decision and see if it fits with your simple religion of kindness… And if anyone asks… Kindness is my religion is as good an answer as any.
So go ahead and remember to spend some more time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Neither are YOU…
Remember to say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Remember to say “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. Avoid cruel people. Use the kindness rule as a threshold for those allowed near you. If they come froma place off the heart and soul, then it’s a good place to start…
And it’s now time to focus on the power of the Spirit, because real power is not brute force and money. Real Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth.
Power is in your relationship to the earth. Power is in your Spirit. And that Spirit has to be cultivated lest it withers and dies off from You. And then you’ll be roaming hopeless like a hungry ghost…
So save your Spirit, because the power of the Spirit is undeniably the greatest power in the Universe. And we are not talking here about the New Age definition of Spirit nor the religious one. We are simply speaking of the power of the Human Spirit. That natural spirit, that we owe our existence to. the breath of Life, the Soul, the ancient spirit, Socrates describes as genus or genius…
As a matter of fact, if you observe carefully — You shall find that most positive outcomes in our life stems from the SPIRIT’s work.
The Spirit alone is responsible for all the incredible miracles that happen in our lives daily…
Good erupting from darkness is chief amongst life’s many miracles to behold…
And when I dare say that todays Metaphysics is tomorrow’s Physics – am saying so – only because I am counting the miracles the spirit has drawn in my life and contemplate the State of Grace, often find myself into.
Keep your sense of Wonder alive, because wonder is a powerful emotion, and one that tends to be underutilized as we get older. As a child, we’re wide open, egoless and seeking to know more. Yet as we grow into adulthood, we sometimes get smug with our sliver of knowledge and think there’s little left to be discovered, or worse that we know it all. This is hubris. And hubris can be counted on to always be our downfall. Since the amount of information out there is infinite, regardless of how much wisdom and experience you’ve acquired up to this point, there’s an infinite amount left for us to always be learning more and re-evaluating our positions. Be rational and start thinking and questioning everything… Then real knowledge starts appearing in your life.
Wonder will take you out of the moment of whatever you’re stuck in and put you in an elevated state. In fact, wonder’s the opposite of being stuck, because by definition, when you’re taking the point of view of an observer, You are bound to allow Life unfold and thus learn… When you’re the witness, you’re not stuck — you’re free to see things as they are.
So take a moment to look up at the stars and notice how the light that’s hitting your retina today probably left that tiny dot in the night sky a long time before even when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Or how every second of your existence, trillions of cells are working together in a harmonious collective to keep your heart beating, your lungs pumping oxygen and exchanging it for CO2 from your bloodstream, so you can keep breathing, and your brain oxygenated for you to be able to be reading this post here…
Take a closer look at a single leaf, or a butterfly, or a glass of water to see what it is made of… The constituent parts, the atoms and the empty space all matter is. The energy that surrounds us and is the quantum basis of all matter. Behold the miracle of a young child, and remember how you were once that miracle — and still are today. Because You are that miracle today.
All of this should make you feel pretty good, and maybe a little humble. Which brings us to Humility: “…Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly… The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility. Because humility is endless.”
– T. S. Eliot
It’s true: you can never go wrong with being humble… Especially after looking at those stars –
they’re so far. From such depths of time. They are so infinitely small and yet they are so big. There are so many of them… Our whole planet is just a speck of dust in comparison. Because when you are watching the night sky from the eternal darkness of the Pole, those may seem like clichés, but they’re also eternal truths — deeply etched into our subconsciousness.
And then, you should be humble because there are the stars on a human scale, who put us all to shame. People alive today like Mandiba – the great Nelson Mandela – so many great scientists, great doctors, noble leaders, awesome Mothers and dutiful Fathers, grateful kids, loving teachers, writers and artists, and so many awesome people around us that make us realize how much more each of us can contribute to our world.
It’s also humbling to realize how much grace and beneficence has been bestowed on us already. Now the fact we are alive and breathing this very moment is a cause for gratefulness. Our tender heart must rejoice that we are able to breath each and every second of our lives… The fact that many have small children, can give you a better appreciation of the staggering amount of work that goes into us being raised to the adulthood we experience now. It may be a good time now to call your parents and just say, “Wow, I had no idea — you guys are
A little thank you goes a long way. Which reminds
me of… the power of Gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most potent ways to change your mood in the short term and enrich your life
in the long term. Expressing gratitude just feels good. It makes you feel pure. And it’s the simplest way to get back in the groove of things and feel part of creation all over again and get in the space off Grace we so often lust after…
Right now as you’re reading this, chances are that you’re not in the midst of famine or war. You’re probably in decent health, and we’re
guessing that you sleep somewhere safe and dry at night, with minimal chance of getting mauled by wild animals. Except if you are up North with us in the Arctic and the polar bears are frisky and hungry having their way around with anything that seems appetizing — like errant humans… That’s an easy gratitude.
A good practice is to make a daily list of what you’re grateful for. Start with one item a day, then build to three, maybe even five. You’ll be amazed at how many things you’ll find: friends,
family, food, freedom, fun activities, physical and mental health are just a start.
You may have noticed that these emotions tie into each other. Gratitude often makes you feel humble, which can lead to wonder at how it all comes together, which in turn brings on more gratitude, and so on. A positive feedback loop of positive emotion.
Some believe that the next emotion is the most potent of them all — Compassion. Somebody did you wrong? Well, these things happen. Now, if you were to focus on the plight of poor little you and how anyone could be so cruel to do you wrong, you’d probably just feel worse. I say: Why compound the insult with injury? Maybe you ccan take the high road and follow this
much better idea is to shift your perspective and think: why would this other person behave this way? What could have happened to warrant this
behavior? How badly must this person have been abused as a child to have this much hate bottled up still and to behave like that?
Kidding aside, remember that most people, no matter how big and adult they look, are just injured little children inside. So have
compassion for that little child. There is no one so high or so low in this world who does not deserve your compassion. And, above all, have compassion for yourself. We all screw up from time to time. It’s pretty much the definition of being human. So go easy on you,
and refrain from the popular pastime of self-flagellation. Putting yourself down is actually just a twisted form of self-importance
and attention-seeking, so get over yourself. Acknowledge what happened, have a little chuckle, remember the lesson, and move on.
There You are. This is wisdom from up high, or at least up North…
Henceforth, those are your righteous feel good tools. They can always serve as a correct response to a situation. They’re also cornerstones of your empowerment as a person, since they give you control over how you feel in response to situations. Remember them, practice them liberally, and watch the quality of your life improve dramatically. The power is within you, and since this year already before the summer arrives, there is a magnificent new crack in the Arctic sea ice glacier, extending all the way from one end of the Arctic circle to the other, let’s be realistic and think sustainability too. All the way from Nunavut to Alaska, this break must be the Grand Canyon of the ice mass… This magnificent break in the ice is naturally attributed to higher than average temperatures and sea ice movement because of far more extreme storms due to climatic disruption caused by climate change.
This year is the lowest amount of sea ice seen in the Arctic since they’ve been tracking it with satellite images… and it surely looks like it will be completely ice free this summer.
Traversing the crack is like visiting the Grand Canyon in polar ice white…
[to be continued]
This post will be continued with vivid descriptions of the Polar and our Arctic Experiences…
By the way a big Thanks to Gintare for a world’s first experience way up north…