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An eye-opening Arctic expedition

Diploma Programme (DP) student Hari Tamang joined a trip to the Earth’s northernmost region to discuss climate change, technology and ethics

“There are trips, and then there are the trips that change you,” says Hari Tamang, a DP student at UWC Red Cross Nordic (RCN), Norway. “I still cannot believe that I swam across the 80th degree at +4°C temperatures like a polar bear, kayaked on the North Pole across pieces of ice, and observed glaciers falling down.”

He is talking about an expedition to the Arctic in August, organized by FutureTalks, which connects people of all ages, from all backgrounds, for initiatives focused on the future of humanity. The trip brought together 100 brilliant individuals to discuss the most important challenges of our time.

Hari says his IB education inspired him to apply. “The DP has taught me to fully realize who I am and what I am supposed to do for myself and for the international environment. I have learnt about communicating, thinking, understanding and self-management in a global environment, especially through the creativity, activity, service (CAS) projects I have done. I was looking for more opportunities to use my DP knowledge to help create a better future for the coming generation, and for our world, and I found FutureTalks through my school,” he explains.

Hari, who is from a small village in Chitwan, in southern Nepal, won a Scholarship to UWC RCN as part of the Survivors of Conflict programme. (When he was seven years old, he survived a terrorist bomb attack on a bus.)

His application for the expedition involved writing about his passions, what he could contribute to the FutureTalks community and what he had achieved in his life.

After being selected, he joined other participants at an introductory conference in Oslo, where he made a speech on education and learning experiences within, and outside of, formal education.

Then it was on to Svalbard, situated between mainland Norway and the North Pole, where all the participants spent four days on a veteran ship, undisturbed by the outside world, with no WiFi or cellular coverage. They explored the Arctic surroundings and discussed how tech affects democracy, whether there should be restrictions on artificial intelligence (AI) and how to prepare children for the future. “It was rewarding to engage with experts in the growing field of AI,” says Hari.

He says that the IB learner profile attributes came to the fore. “I learned I was very confident in talking with people who were already working as leaders in different fields. I was also very open-minded in every kind of discussion we had because I am experienced in living in an international environment and discussing ideas in similar ways.

“The Arctic expedition was an amazing experience. We viewed polar bears from the top of the ship as well as dolphins and whales jumping outside the windows. We learned about the history of whales and it was saddening to hear that every day we are losing a number of species. We listened to a presentation on how the Earth formed, which stimulated thought about how all living creatures are connected with each other. And we engaged in discussions about how we can bring about inner peace,” he says.

Taking action together

But it wasn’t all peace and serenity. “We did find pieces of plastic on the North Pole, which was a shock for everyone,” he says. “In a speech, the director of a European research centre said that every year 400 metres of ice disappears from behind the research stations in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, due to temperature rises. Carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in 650,000 years. Seventeen of the warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. This summer, all-time heat records were set all over the world. Extreme weather is becoming even more extreme. In the Arctic, we were 4km into what just a couple of years earlier would have been a glacier but is now open water.”

Hari believes more needs to be done. “Climate change is real, it’s happening faster and faster and it is irreversibly changing our world. This means our actions must be faster. While climate change is getting worse, this trip and its participants gave me hope.

“I look forward to many more inter-generational, cross-sectoral and inter-cultural discussions. With data, new technology, economic models, education, and movement-building, we can accelerate climate action.”

He adds: “In order to impact real change, we should not ask ourselves who we do things for, but rather who we do things with. It’s about getting everyone on board this shared mission by creating inclusive and cross-sector movements. Climate change (or any other issue) is not solved in silos. It can’t be solved by politicians, scientists, civil society, activists or business leaders working separately.”