It's Time to Take Radical Responsibility for Our Actions

When the massive wall of icebergs finally moved, it looked like slow motion. But there was nothing slow about it.

From where I stood looking out across the Ilulissat Icefjord that August morning, contemplating the day's swim ahead, the ice rush was awesome – and shocking.

Motorway of Ice

I was in Greenland to swim across the face of the world's fastest moving glacier. But the volume of ice that entered the bay that day, and the terrific speed at which it was moving, made swimming impossible. It had turned into a motorway of ice.  

The Ilulissat Glacier is rapidly melting. It’s now moving at an astonishing 40 metres each day – which feels a lot faster than the speed of our action on the Climate Crisis.

This is why I am in Glasgow for COP26, to share what I saw.

Ground zero

Most world leaders have not visited the Polar Regions; they have not seen what is happening at Ground Zero of the Climate Emergency.

I have been swimming for 35 years, half of those in the Arctic and Antarctica. The changes I have witnessed are nothing short of terrifying.

When ice sheets and glaciers melt, the water makes its way to the sea. By now most people understand the consequences of sea level rise: habitat destruction, the submersion of major cities, and the disappearance of vulnerable island states.

Ice is life. Ice helps our fragile planet regulate its temperature; when ice melts, we have climate instability.

Take Responsibility

There is a key point in every person's development when they start taking responsibility for their actions. The human race has reached that point.

What I witnessed in Greenland is the most visceral example of what is happening to our planet because of our failure to reduce emissions.

It is not an abstract possibility for the future. It is real and it is happening now.

It's clear from recent UN reports that global temperatures are fast on track to exceed 1.5°C. This will change everything.

It's time to rise up and confront those changes with immediate action.

Healthy Oceans

As UN Patron of the Oceans I am tasked with being a voice for our oceans and the incredible wildlife that lives in them.

If you've followed my campaigns you'll know that I'm calling for 30% of the world's oceans to be fully protected by 2030 – as a minimum starting point.

I'm not suggesting that this will get us out of danger. Healthy oceans are more resilient to climate change, and are effective carbon sinks, but they cannot solve the climate crisis alone.

Setting up ocean protection is no substitute for the kind of radical emission reduction we need to put in place right now.  

Environmental Catastrophe

Call it climate change, or the Climate Crisis, but what we are really facing is a global environmental catastrophe.

Along with the loss of ice, we have seen 70% of our wildlife disappear in just 50 years.

Low-lying islands, whose people are least responsible for the problem, are paying the earliest price for it.

The next generation will be burdened by the consequences of our actions – or inaction.

Those making grand promises for 2050 and 2060 will not be here for their delivery. But these young citizens will have no choice but to take extreme measures.

We can't let them do it alone.

Extreme Ownership

The biggest threat to our planet right now is the belief that someone else's government will cut emissions, some other company will stop polluting the environment, or some other person will come up with a technical solution.

It's time for everyone – young and old, governments, business, and civil society, to take Extreme Ownership of their part in creating this problem, and fix it.

It's time for us to collectively 'grow up', to take responsibility for our actions and our choices, and for those of the governments, brands and corporations we support with our votes and our wallets.

History is full of acts of sacrifice and heroism in times of crisis – as well as kindness and compassion in the face of devastation.  

We each of us have within us undreamed of depths and capabilities. We must access them now.

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