This week, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) announced a new partnership with Greenpeace International, as part of the latter organization’s Save the Arctic campaign. Two young women, Yvette Sena Blankson of Ghana and Miryam Justo of Peru, have set sail on a ship headed for the Arctic Ocean to study the northerly environment and the effects of climate change. The journey will raise awareness about the fragility of the icy Arctic environment and about the impact that climate change and shipping have had on the environment.
WAGGGS is the international umbrella group that is composed of member organizations in 145 countries, all of which are Girl Scouting and Girl Guiding groups for girls and young women. The organization has ten million members worldwide and three million in the United States. It formed its partnership with Greenpeace with the belief that girls and young women should be integral parts of the solution to environmental issues such as climate change. It believes that educating girls and young women about environmental issues will produce greater results in global policies and change at local, national, and global levels, as women as a whole are more affected by climate change than any other group of people in the world, especially in developing nations.
Blankson, a Ghanaian Girl Guide, and Justo, a Peruvian Girl Scout, will spend a week aboard the Greenpeace icebreaker ship and will be accompanied by Greenpeace activists, scientist Dr. John Fletcher, and Chinese pop star Hu Haiquan, as well as filmmakers, celebrities, and scientists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The ship, named the Arctic Sunrise, greeted the two women in Svalbard, Norway, an archipelago located between the North Pole and mainland Norway. The Girl Scouts will spend a week in the Arctic, recording their experiences on film, in blog posts, and on Twitter. WAGGGS says that the girls will share their “ideas and opinions on why we need to protect the Arctic and why young people need to be at the heart of the policies and decision-making that affect the environment.”
A WAGGGS statement defines the expedition’s purpose as “to claim the Arctic for everybody, for future generations and for no individual nation states, and to show that the future of the Arctic matters to everybody around the world.” In October, WAGGGS and Greenpeace will host a contest to encourage youth to submit designs for a global “Flag for the Future” to show that the Arctic belongs to all people of Earth.
Greenpeace launched its Save the Arctic campaign this month to highlight the plight of the Arctic region as it faces human-induced threats. More than 75 percent of Arctic ice has melted in the past 30 years, and the polar ice cap has shrunk dramatically. The region’s wildlife, including polar bears, narwhals, and walruses, depend on the sea ice; if the ice keeps melting rapidly, these animals will have nowhere to go.
Additional threats to the survival of the Arctic sea ice include oil drilling and the fishing industry. Oil giants such as Exxon, Shell, and BP want to start drilling for oil in the Arctic, which would put the region at risk of a spill. To drill for oil, companies have to melt ice and move icebergs, effectively destroying the sea ice to get to a global supply of three years’ worth of oil. Arctic wildlife could be threatened and further endangered if industrial fisheries gain access to the area; this would lead to unsustainable fishing practices and depletion of animal populations.
To join Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign, visit savethearctic.org and sign petitions to establish an Arctic sanctuary and to drive oil rigs and unsustainable fisheries out of the region.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/404037340