Sydney Science Forum: Tim Jarvis - Life and Death in Antarctica
21 February 2011
Come hear Tim Jarvis, environmental scientist and renowned explorer, recount his recent unassisted expeditions to both polar regions and share his intriguing environmental findings, when he presents his Sydney Science Forum public talk 'Life and Death in Antarctica' on 16 March 2011.
Tim Jarvis combines his love for adventure with his passion for the environment in his expeditions, which have covered both north and south poles and many of the world's deserts, mountains and rainforests. Tim has achieved extraordinary feats of exploration and endurance, making him an internationally renowned adventurer.
In this free public talk, Tim will talk about his north and south pole trips, including his gruelling expedition recreating the polar survival journey of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson where Tim used only 1913 clothing and equipment, and survived on starvation rations.
He will detail his upcoming expedition planned for the 2011/2012 Antarctic summer - an epic recreation of Sir Ernest Shackleton's historic journey using the same type of clothing and equipment as Shackleton had and an exact replica of the explorer's famous boat, the James Caird.
Polar expeditions - unforgiving and harsh, beautiful and life changing
"My first taste of the polar regions was in the Arctic and was a bid to cross Spitsbergen - a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle. It arose out of a combination of a desire to go and explore the place and a bid to challenge myself and find out whether I was capable of doing it or not," said Tim.
"I was driven to do it when a friend, impressed with something I had achieved in another area of life, jokingly said "What next, a polar expedition?" For someone who had grown up in south east Asia, the idea of a polar journey felt very alien to me but it appealed to me as a place to test myself," explained Tim.
"My reasons for going south - Antarctica - were similar. I had a desire to reacquaint myself with that resourceful person I'd become in the Arctic, except this time on a much bigger scale," said Tim.
"The Antarctic represents a place where you are made brutally aware of your insignificance and yet, as Antarctica is unsullied by mankind, it enables you to have a very intense, personal relationship with the place despite its unforgiving nature."
Tim was impressed by the scale, grandeur and harshness of Antarctica, which made him feel each day like he was on the verge of discovering something about either himself or the ground over which he was travelling.
"Travelling in a place that is so unforgiving, and yet free of human influence, allows you to remember the scale of our planet and your place in it. It puts many of the societal constructs we operate under into real perspective and helps you recognise precisely that - that they are human constructs," said Tim.
"It's exciting to step where noone has before. The mindset required to undertake unsupported Antarctic expeditions is also something that has been a lasting legacy for me. I find I am better at goal setting, working through problems and breaking down the enormity of many of life's challenges into manageable pieces to work through them - something learnt the hard way in Antarctica."
The daily routine of a manhaul expedition is one of constant workload, vigilance, routine, concern about hazards such as the weather and crevasses, and maintaining a philosophical attitude towards all the inevitable problems that arise.
"All this is underpinned by the worry that one night, as you sleep, your resolve to keep going might simply desert you. Tent life is cold and damp, and it's easy to have serious doubts about the merits of such self-imposed suffering! All of this is fortunately countered by moments of blinding clarity where elation takes hold as you realise the enormity of the challenge you are steadily accomplishing and how life changing it is.
"Antarctica is extremely cold and unforgiving, but the rawness and beauty of it all is out of this world and motivates you to keep going."
Environmental state of the world
As an environmental scientist with Masters in both Environmental Science and Environmental Law, Tim's travels through polar regions, deserts, forests and mountains, have allowed him to see first hand what state these areas are in and what sorts of human impacts are evident in these environments.
"The world is in a poor state and I am not confident of mankind's ability to reverse what we have done, unless we act swiftly and decisively now," said Tim.
"Our impact on the polar regions is evident. A journey to the north pole currently involves travelling over sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Much of this ice is melting rapidly as the ocean is warming, so trips to the north pole from Canada or Russia will no longer be possible by 2020.
"Down south, the western Antarctic ice cap is warming rapidly due to changes in the prevailing winds brought about by climate change. The western cap alone has the capacity to raise global sea levels by over four metres, which would be devastating.
"Much of the recent flooding in Queensland is due to a more pronounced La Niña cycle. The same La Niña cycle is bringing drier weather in South America and the storms and heavy snow in the US that we've seen this year."
You can make a difference to the environment
Tim is passionate about environmental sustainability and the difference individuals can make to the environment.
"I think the key thing is to understand that your contribution can make a difference. I am interested in choice architecture being employed by organisations to make the environmentally sustainable option the default. If someone chooses not to take this option then they have to make a conscious decision to take this route. This is a way of ensuring people still enjoy their democratic right to choose, but that the less environmentally friendly option is no longer the default," explained Tim.
Tim will also talk about the environmental consulting work he does as Sustainability and Climate Change Strategist for Arup.
"Arup are at the forefront of both technical, advisory, philanthropic and research work across the whole green agenda, from being one of the UK government's chief advisers on renewable energy generation through to work with the Clinton climate initiative with the C40 Asian cities in reducing their carbon footprint," said Tim.
Sydney Science Forum: Life and Death in Antarctica:
Date: Wednesday 16 March 2011
Time: 5:45pm - 6:45pm
Location: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997