By planting the WCIT 2010 flag on the Antarctic continent, Antarctica is the 7th and last continent to be involved with WCIT 2010. WCIT employee Ivo Nederpelt planted the flag in the ice near Paradise Bay on November 24 2009. He travelled to the white continent as participant in the International Antarctic Treaty Expedition 2009 lead by polar explorer, thought leader and environmentalist, Robert Swan OBE. The expedition was joined by an international team of 47 participants from 16 nations to focus on leadership towards the strategic climate solutions needed to preserve our planet.
Antarctica is an interesting continent from the scope of WCIT 2010. Can the IT industry not only learn from Antarctica, but can it also help the only continent without IT to diminish the daily influence that people have on it from all other continents?
Climate change has a clear and devastating effect on the Antarctic Peninsula. Upon arriving we were thrilled to see the first tabular icebergs. Only to learn a few minutes later that these were the remainings of the enormous mass of ice, the size of the Netherlands, that broke of the Larsen B ice shelf three years ago.
Crossing by boat from the south of Argentina to Antarctic waters takes nearly three days on the infamous Drake Passage, one of the roughest seas in the world that connects the Pacific and Atlantic ocean. Being on a lone ship in a 50 knot storm rocking on six meter high waves makes you truly witness the journey to the end of the world. As the ship approaches the first icebergs the waves give way to silence and peace. The sight of those big, majestic white shapes in motionless water with unearthly lighting is stunning.
In the Antarctic inspiration is not hard to find. The coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth nature is a superlative in all aspects. Enormous, pitch black mountains are covered in the purest of snows. Glaciers as far as the eye can see make our 300ft ship disappear in its white and blue surroundings. The beauty makes you feel at home, yet two minutes in the freezing cold waters is deadly to any human being. The millions of penguins fight a day to day battle with gulls, sea leopards and killer whales to survive, but ignorant of the most ferocious predator of them all, they walk up to humans in curiosity and interest.
Antarctica is nature in its purest and most unforgiving form. You can only awe at its magnificent beauty and feel humble and guilty as a human to be there.
The history of Antarctica is one of exploitation, depletion and conflict. The first man to set foot on the continent in 1821 was not a famous explorer like Magellan, Cook or Tasman, but it was a sealer looking for fur seals to hunt. In decennia to come Antarctica was the scene of the largest massacre of seals and later whales that the planet has ever seen. This profitable exploitation of the continent led to the near extinction of fur seals and most whale species in the southern hemisphere. As the sealers left Antarctica because of total depletion, the whale oil business remained highly profitable. The big blow to the whaling industry was dealt by an IT professional ‘avant la lettre’, Thomas Edison, discovering the electric light bulb as a cheap alternative for lamps on whale oil. From 1879 the whaling industry diminished rapidly.
From that time several countries claimed areas on Antarctica. Even small armed conflicts arose between England, Argentina and Chile, who had claims on the same territory. On the first of December 1959 the Antarctic Treaty put an end to all disputes.
The 15-day expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula aimed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. This Treaty is a shining example of international cooperation signed in the midst of the Cold War. It proved a brilliant piece of legislation that built a platform over the conflict from which nations could work past their differences and preserve Antarctica for peace and science. We need to take the lessons we’ve learned here in Antarctica and apply those globally to rise above our differences and create a new framework for addressing our climate issues.
In the late 80’s global governments and companies cooperated once more, when the hole in the ozone layer became a serious threat to mankind. Stringent legislation and clear agreements put an abrupt end to the use of CFC’s and PCB’s. The hole in the ozone layer still holds an extra danger to Antarctic travel nowadays, but due to unanimous action the ozone layer will be restored to pre-industrial level by 2060.
December 2009, our planet faces an even bigger, imminent and manmade danger. Again, we ask our world leaders in Copenhagen to take proper actions in protecting our planet. And again industry is part of the solution. In May WCIT 2010 will show us the answers that IT has to the challenges of today and tomorrow. Let’s work together to make sure that the Declaration of Amsterdam puts these answers into clear agreements and concrete actions of all companies and governments involved.