Climate Voices

December 11, 2016
By: Will Steger

It is the road of many expeditions that require each of us to be at our very best

This evening is truly a special one for me. Thanks to the Governor for his leadership and personal, loyal friendship. I also want to thank him for his climate and clean energy leadership. We have the start of a billion dollar clean energy economy, thanks to the solar energy standard he passed that has helped launched the solar boom.

Since the 1960s, I’ve done four major expeditions where I failed on the first attempt. These were all life changing for me – and 3 of the 4 I was able to go back and succeed. It was only one, my 1997 solo to the Pole where I decided not to try it again.

Brief story about one of them – the International Arctic Project in 1995.

The goal of the International Arctic Project in 1995 was to make the first single season crossing of the Arctic Ocean by dog team.

I prepared for 3 years with meticulous planning, including 3 training expeditions. The crux of this expedition was the 30 mile sheer one that separates the Russian Coast from the thicker pack ice on the other side of the Arctic Ocean.

Our planned departure was on March 8, 1995. March 8th was an important date because all of the expeditions that left before that date made it across the sheer zone to the polar pack ice. I remember on the evening of March 7th we had the expedition team with 30 dogs, 6 men and women from 5 countries toasting with our celebratory drink – frozen scotch in water before we left.

On the morning of March 8th, it was a perfect day, it was clear and calm and 54 degrees below zero. We headed out on smooth ice into the polar twilight with excellent traveling conditions. I started by riding on the back sled and the other 5 teams were in front of me. Around the afternoon later in the day commotion was visible in the front, so I moved forward. I sledded forward by pressure ridges to find a dog team and 2 men in the water. The ice had suddenly broken and one dog team went in. Our Danish team member was pulled in with his dogs. The Russian team member cut the rope to rescue the Danish team member. We got everyone out on the ice. We set up the tent. We had the guys that had fallen in the water in sleeping bags trying to get them warm, when the ice started to buckle and break apart. Then the sleds started to drift apart on different blocks of ice.

We didn’t know this at the time, but 2000 miles across the Arctic Ocean in Alaska a gigantic storm was heading out in our direction.  Normally when a storm comes we can tell by the clouds, but where we were it was calm and clear. The monster storm happening by Alaska transmitted its power through the ice and that distance, setting the whole pack ice in motion. The pack ice was now crushing the sheer zone where we were camped. What followed was a 72-hour polar nightmare. The ice that we were on was compressed and was shattering. We could hear in the distance in the north what sounded like 10,000 plates of sheet glass breaking up and that was the front of the pack ice coming our way. Within an hour, we were on this ice as it started to crush. We traveled nonstop for 72 hours, with 18 hours in the polar night. We were stalked by polar bears that were super aggressive. Then the wind shifted from the south that was now blowing the ice we were on into the open ocean. We finally made it to shore. Then we had an 8-day storm. The Russian helicopters came and evacuated us to a Russian weather base.

I was so tired and beaten down and couldn’t walk. But I was resolved. I put the expedition back together. I got the logistics re-organized; the team back together and then went out and did it again. This time, 105 days later, we were safely on the North American continent having crossed the Arctic Ocean in a single season successfully.

We are on that sheer zone with climate and clean energy now. The progress we’ve made on climate and clean energy over the past 10 years is now threatened again. We’ve fought hard – now what do we do?

It’s time we stand up, brush ourselves off, stop the whining and name-calling.  Stop the demonizing of rural people. We don’t have time for this. Take a close look at ourselves. I’m not talking about self –reflection or some sort of soul searching. If you want to make change for a better world, you first have to look within yourself.

Actions can be cheap – what counts are our thoughts.

Thoughts have energy – they create our universe and determine our destiny.

Positive energy attracts/like energy attracts and we have a choice. Negative energy is filled with so many opinions and judgment. Getting worked up sucks you in – it’s a feeling of despair and exhaustion. But with positive feeling and thinking – you are more clear headed and intuitive. You act together, you have clear vision. It takes community to make it happen.

We have a strong community – we can feel the energy tonight. We understand the science and know what is happening. We have goodness on our side. We build bridges. The moral imperative that is echoed in our concerns for our children’s future and our deep concern for God’s creation that is facing extinction guides us.

How will we do this? We will make the changes and draw down carbon from our atmosphere through economy and good clean energy jobs. We are going to out compete coal and gas and keep it in the ground where it belongs.

It is the road of many expeditions that require each of us to be at our very best.

We need more leaders and teams of people working together. It is amazing what one person can do. We are all together tonight because of an amazing person and an amazing leader. I want to thank Nicole Rom for her leadership and her example.

Thank you for being here tonight. I’m really proud to see everyone here.