In one week, we will depart to Greenland. First, we will conduct fieldwork at Disko Island, followed by fieldwork around the Kangerlussuaq area. We are all very excited to go and we are very busy with sorting and gathering of our gear.
Fully related to present day climate change, word of large wildfires burning in West-Greenland reached worldwide news. These fires have been burning the last weeks in an area right between the two destinations of our fieldwork trip. I wonder if we could see any of the burned areas along the way.
This reminded me that people from outside of the scientific community sometimes ask me “Is your research-topic not depressing?”..
My first reaction often is to be surprised by the question; why would I be depressed by such a topic so relevant and honorable?
My second thought, however, is less positive. It then strikes me that climate change is a frightening scenario, and a very real one indeed. As a scientist, I am busy with numbers, graphs and papers. Sometimes the occasional cool field trip too. But the reality of a changing planet is not an every-day concern to me in the sense of fear. In a over-simplified one-liner one could state that the scientist only observes and concludes, passing this knowledge along. As a natural scientist I could even say that change is natural, even if it is caused by an intelligent species. But as a human, I should be scared by this change of environment. Not only for the well being of our species, but for our moral obligation towards planet Earth.
The depressing part is that we probably won’t be able to ‘fix things’. We probably can not rid all oceans from plastics, save all rain-forests, preserve all endangered species and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to zero at the same time.. Scientists like us can probably only make efforts to limit the damage, and to learn from humanities mistakes. This is exactly where hope emerges, we can make a difference. And this fuels me.
I hope that my journey to Greenland will inspire me further to fight for the cause. I am afraid that observing the changes will also scare me a bit too…