Lindblad Hosts Climate Change Symposium Onboard

October 1, 2008
Amidst stories of rising fuel costs, tanking markets and the upcoming United States presidential election, the issue of global warming may seem to have taken a backseat. However, it was Topic A at the Arctic Expedition for Climate Action, held onboard Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Endeavour this summer in conjunction with the Aspen Institute, which plans leadership seminars.

At a press briefing today aboard another Lindblad ship -- the expedition line's latest, National Geographic Explorer, which was making its maiden New York call at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal -- journalists and travel agents were offered a glimpse into what occurred during this first-ever climate change symposium at sea, and what's to come.

The Arctic Expedition for Climate Action kicked off on July 11, 2008, when more than 100 participants boarded Endeavour in Norway's Svalbard. These included democratic and republican political figures, including President Jimmy Carter and Senator Tom Daschle, and CEO's from major companies like Google, Dupont and eBay. Also present were scientists, various religious leaders and community activists like Jayni Chase, founder for the Center of Environmental Education (and, yes, Chevy Chase's wife).

Onboard, special panel discussions tackled a variety of issues, from the development of low-carbon and renewable power resources to teaching future generations how to enforce and thrive in a low-carbon world. Off the ship, the unique non-boardroom setting allowed these public figures -- even those already propagating the global warming message -- to see first-hand what was happening in a place many of them had never before visited. One participant recalled in a subsequent blog entry witnessing a lit match that "exploded like a blow torch" due to methane produced by melting permafrost.

Lindblad Expeditions was a natural fit for this type of symposium, which was actually the brainchild of Lindblad's founder and CEO Sven Lindblad. Through its partnership with the National Geographic Society, Lindblad offers expedition cruises that feature a unique blend of travel and education. Its sailing ships not only carry passengers to unique locales but also promote conservation and sustainable tourism. In some cases, the ships also serve as ecological research vessels.

Funny man Chevy Chase, who was onboard Explorer today with his wife Jayni, shared humorous anecdotes from the July trip on Endeavour. In particular, Chase poked good-natured fun at Senator Daschle's wife Linda, who was led to believe that insects were a problem in the frigid Arctic and so wasted packing space on a plethora of bug sprays. "There was plenty of joking," he said. "It's a smaller ship, but at 6:30 everyone would hit the wine and talk ... there was plenty to learn but also plenty of time to bask in the beauty of the area."

Indeed, Jayni says that the trip made a believer out of her husband as far as global warming is concerned: "He would play devil's advocate over the years and give me a little trouble ... He came off converted. My husband said this was a life changing experience as did Carter and [Secretary Madeleine] Albright. These are people that aren't easy to impress. And we were all impressed."

So what's next? National Geographic Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who sits on the board at the Aspen Institute, tells us that there's a lot of buzz among her colleagues on what could come about policy-wise from this summit. At the conclusion of the trip, the participants issued an action statement, vowing among other things to urge congressional leaders and the soon-to-be elected U.S. president to pass legislation that will implement substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to see the full statement as a PDF document.

Oh, and speaking of emissions: In case you were wondering, Lindblad Expeditions purchased carbon offsets so that the Arctic Expedition for Climate Change resulted in no net increase in greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (A carbon offset is a certificate or financial measurement representing the reduction of one metric ton -- 2,205 pounds -- of carbon dioxide emissions.)

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor