Antarctica’s Purpose

Ever since I started this blog I have been itching to do a post on Antarctica, a place that is unlike any other place in the world that I’ve visited before. I never thought that this White Continent could have any impact on me, but oh boy it did. I enjoyed my time there, but it wasn’t until I returned did I realize the hold it had one me.
              I met a friend after returning for coffee and when I told them where I’d been, they said, “Oh you must be glad to be back to reality.” I smiled and said yes. When I left them though I thought more about what they said. Reality. What is reality? I wandered around my house. I knocked on the walls, turned my water on and off. I looked outside and watched the cars go by. Reality? This is not reality. This is what we’ve created. This is not real – it is all artificial.
              I often try to imagine what the Earth once looked like without any human impact. I thought I had a grasp of this when I was out west in the high desert in California. I thought I definitely knew what this looked and felt like when I lived in Kenya and wandered for miles in the Great Rift Valley. It felt like there wasn’t a soul, but the truth is, no matter where you are in Kenya, people always emerge from the haze. It wasn’t until I went to Antarctica did I understand what true reality meant. What the Earth means without human impact.
              It is one of the few places that humans have a minimal footprint. When I came down there in 2012 I kept looking at mountains and glaciers and one thing that kept me in awe was thinking “no one has put a footprint here. No one has touched that rock before.” No humans are going to come out of the mist here. This is what the Earth looked like before humans put their stamp on it. I want to keep it that way.
              As Antarctica becomes more accessible, we need to draw the line. This is the last frontier. Without a doubt science in Antarctica is very important. This should never end. Exploration of Antarctica is also important. This is Antarctica’s legacy. I also think that tourism is very important to the region. Without this people will never come to this breathtaking region, fall in love, and feel the need to protect it.
              One thing I do object to though is using Antarctica as a playground, which I am starting to see more and more. Recently there was a documentary that came out whose sole purpose, as far as I could see, was to show off these fellows snowboarding in Antarctica. Their crew did not conduct any scientific research (as far as I could see). There were some token scenes of wildlife, but for the most part it was these two guys that got bored with their mountains at home and came to Antarctica to seek out new and exciting mountains to snowboard and to be the first.
              I appreciated the magnificent scenic views, but did not appreciate what this could insinuate. It also could potentially open the door for others to come and use Antarctica as a playground. You do not mountain bike in the Serengeti. Why is there snowboarding in Antarctica? This should not be allowed. The Antarctic Treaty was founded and designated Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” This does not include using it as a recreation area. I would think snowboarding and likewise activities would hinder scientific pursuits and impair the environment.
              Antarctica is a continent that is not meant to be tamed. She may come across as a lonely, beautiful landmass enticing us to come keep her company, but she will turn on you in the flick of a fin. The winds coming off the glaciers change, the glaciers calve, and she reminds you that while she likes you being there, she is still in charge. People using her for recreation is an attempt to tame her. Scientists coming down to study her and her secrets is respecting her. Tourists coming down to appreciate her natural beauty is to pay her homage. We need to continue to treat Antarctica with awe and respect that she deserves.
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