In his eyes, Robert Swan carries a constant reminder of the effect pollution has had on the ozone. During his polar expeditions, the colors of his irises were altered due to heightened exposure under the holes in the stratosphere. During treks to both the North and South Poles, Swan witnessed the affects of climate change firsthand. Swan’s experiences inspired him to lead a global movement to preserve Antarctica, which is, according to Swan, “the last great wilderness on earth.”
As a polar explorer, Swan has proven himself capable of leading a team in one of the most extreme environments on the planet. As an environmentalist, he has proven to be a world leader, encouraging corporations to support environmental policies and promoting a sustainable living model. Over a seven year period, Swan and thirty-five young people from across the globe managed a clean up of 1,500 tons of waste from Antarctica.
He has continued his involvement with younger generations by creating the 2041 curriculum, part of which is an education base located in Antarctica. According to Swan’s website, “The E-Base is a sustainable green building operated in an environmental and resource efficient manner.” In 2008 Swan lived on the E-base, solely relying on renewable energy for two weeks, another first in Antarctic History. “We are testing renewable energy and technology at our E-base in Antarctica with the hope that more people will actually use renewable once they see that they work, and work well, in the most hostile places on earth,” says Swan.
Swan is currently on a five-year global tour to promote sustainable living practices and renewable energy. Entitled “Voyage for Cleaner Energy,” Swan is sailing the oceans of the world in a sailboat fueled by renewable energy. Final destination: the third World Summit.
Question and Answer Session with Robert Swan
TFW: Can you imagine our world functioning entirely on renewable energy? If so, how?
Swan: Not for a long time. For the next 50 to 100 years, we will use an energy mix, which will include renewables, fossil fuel, bio fuels, synthetic fuels and nuclear [energy].
TFW: You’ve had firsthand experiences with the after-effects of global warming. What would you say to those who deny or ignore the impact of climate change?
Swan: I would say…that they insure their lives, their homes, their cars -Why? Just in case something happens, so we need to act now on climate change -just in case many of the obvious trends we see continue. Not to act would be selfish for those not born yet
TFW: Throughout your travels, you have witnessed environmental damage incited by humans. In what ways can we begin to remedy these harmful behaviors – on an individual to global level?
Swan: Use more renewable energy. Save energy. Make a business out of looking after our resources. Take the issue seriously at home and at work.
TFW: What do you see for the future of environmental sustainability and how do we reach that vision?
Swan: …It would be great to leave the Antarctic as a natural reserve…for science and peace in 2041.
It is just as important that we take this issue to heart and act in small ways. For young people today it is not the lack of information that is their problem – it is the lack of inspiration. I try in my own way to fill that gap.