The Power of Collaboration

11/4/2013 3:25:56 PM

The Power of Collaboration

By Dr. Marika Holland

It's been an amazing experience broadcasting from the tundra as part of the Tundra Connections series this week. My time here is now coming to an end but the insights gained from this will stay with me for a lifetime.

I study sea ice, the frozen ocean component of the climate system, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. I spend my days considering how the sea ice grows and melts over the seasons, varies from one year or one decade to the next, and what this means for our climate system. The ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is in long-term decline as a result of a warming climate—a direct impact of our burning of fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gas emissions. Projections for the future indicate that unless we reduce emissions, we will lose the summer Arctic sea ice within this century, a change that will have enormous ramifications for climate and ecosystems, including the polar bears.

My work is very collaborative: to understand the ice, it's necessary to understand the ocean, atmosphere, and human contributions to our climate. To understand the impacts of a changing ice pack, it's necessary to understand biological and socio-economic systems. I work closely with scientists studying these other factors. However, my job is also quite academic. I spend much of my time analyzing data with a computer, removed from the physical environment that I've spent my career investigating.

Spending this week on the tundra on the coast of Hudson Bay, has brought home to me the absolute magic of this environment. Watching the polar bears waiting for the ice to come in, which will allow them to hunt seals and end their summer fast, has emphasized to me the urgency with which we must act to save them and reduce our impact on the climate. The sea ice is declining and polar bears are experiencing the impacts of that decline. The time to act is now. The path is clear and through our collective action, we can reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and our impact on the climate.

This week has heightened my commitment to being an agent of change and to doing all that I can to reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions. It has also enlightened me about a powerful force for change that I have often overlooked—or even rejected. The theme of this week's webcasts was sustainable business. I'll admit that before this week, I generally thought of business as the problem. But conversations with my amazing co-panelists (Mike Bellamente, Fiona Wilson, Holly Fowler, and Steve Amstrup), have made it abundantly clear that business, with its enormous influence, can be, must be, and in some examples already is a part of the solution. It will take all of us working together from many different perspectives to address this issue. As I watched the northern lights sway last night, I felt hopeful that we can and will make that commitment.

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