Often marginalized from global thinking, the Arctic is critical for global climate security. It is also on the frontlines of the climate crisis and suffering from the effects of anthropogenic activity. But how can our everyday actions impact the Arctic? Leticia Guzman Ingram, a US Teacher of the Year, National Geographic awardee and the Arctic Angel Education Advisor, shares her outlook on the power of the individual following her time in the Arctic.
Photo credit: Maya Santangelo, Undersea Specialist, Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic
This photo touched me. Last year, I was honored to be a part of the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship and explore the Arctic. It was an unforgettable experience. I felt like I had walked into a magical land, I was completely in awe of the beauty that surrounded me. However, I was shocked by what we found on this pristine wilderness when we were exploring. The Arctic has a small human population, yet there was significant trash, particularly plastic, on the ground. The waste that we found had most likely floated to shore through the ocean currents from other locations around the world. I was in complete disbelief and began to consider the waste that enters the water in my hometown. I became acutely aware of the detriment that pollution in my community could have on Arctic wildlife, the life cycle of trash, and my impact as a human being.
Every time I look at this picture, it makes me reflect on how human debris made its way to this beautiful, remote part of the world. How are we disposing of products and recycling? What do I use daily - is there something I could do differently to reduce the amount of waste floating in my own Colorado rivers? Experiencing that stark contrast, I noticed how jaded I had become towards what I may contribute to pollution around the world. It seems like an overwhelming problem, but I realized that the solution is simple, and it starts with me. I can tell others about my experience and show them this photograph. I can pick up trash when I am in nature. I can recycle. I can drink tap water and use refillable bottles. I can buy secondhand clothing. I can support bag bans. It is a combination of many things but it starts with each one of us. Is there something that you could do? Think about it.
Remember, we are all connected, and what you do can affect the Arctic.
By Leticia Guzman Ingram