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The Last Great Exploration On Earth Is To Survive On Earth

The Last Great Exploration On Earth Is To Survive On Earth thumbnail

Evoking images of calving icebergs, and endless white icescapes, Antarctica has been described as a “silence deep with a breath like sleep”. Some say that its profound beauty haunts you for the rest of your days. And, one man who understands this better than most is Robert Swan OBE.

In 1986, he made the longest unassisted walk ever to the South Pole. Three years later he went onto the North Pole and by the age of 33, he became first person in history to walk to both the top and bottom of the world. And, after nearly losing his life on those treks, Swan vowed to never go back.

But, some three decades later, for the sake of our deteriorating climate, he is retracing his footsteps back to the South Pole together with his 23 year old son Barney. Passing on the baton of polar exploration from one generation to the next, the duo are the first father and son team to make the 600 mile trek, and the only people to do so using nothing but renewable energy.

Their mission: to prove that if green power can be used in the most inhospitable place on earth, it can be used anywhere:

“I had no intention of walking anywhere again in cold weather, ever,” says Robert: “But three years ago we went to see our friends at Nasa and they warned that areas of Antarctica are now disintegrating much faster than even the most pessimistic people thought. So a plan was hatched to get me out from retirement.”

Robert & Barney Swan

Parts of the white continent are melting at record pace: since 1950, average temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by 0.5 degrees Celsius each decade. Several of its ice shelves have now crumbled into icebergs, and the glaciers they once pinned back, have washed into the sea. Although they are fairly small icecaps, their rapid demise has triggered concerns that the same thing might happen to the far larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Twice the size of Texas and two and a half miles thick, it has two of the largest and fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica: Pine Island and Thwaites. Stretching over 150 miles long, “together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans,” writes Eric Holthaus in Grist.

That’s enough water to inundate every coastal city on the planet. Although there’s no doubt that this ice will melt as the planet warms up, the important question is: when?

And, the bad news is that when we look back to the end of the last Ice Age (when temperatures were similar to where they are now), these glaciers both collapsed very quickly. That’s because the ocean floor there is so deep that each new iceberg that breaks off exposes higher and higher cliffs which eventually buckle under their own weight.

“And, once they start to crumble,” writes Holthaus: “The destruction would be unstoppable. Minute-by-minute, huge skyscraper-sized shards of ice cliffs would crumble into the sea, as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as deep underwater as the height of the Empire State Building. The result: a global catastrophe the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

With half of the world’s population living within 50 miles of the coast, such a seimic event would create hundreds of millions of climate refugees, whilst wiping out trillions of dollars of property. And, although scientists used to think that it would take millennia to melt these ice sheets, the work of two prominent climatologists suggests that it could happen as early as this century if carbon emissions continue along their business-as-usual trajectory.

“Antarctica used to be the sleeping elephant”, notes Mark Serreze, the head of the National Snow and Ice Data Center: “But now the elephant is stirring,” begging the question: will we heed its warming? In a rational world, humans would do anything to prevent this nightmare. Instead, as Jeff Goodell writes in Rolling Stone:

“Americans elected a president who thinks climate change is a hoax, who is hellbent on burning more fossil fuels, who installs the CEO of the world’s largest oil company as secretary of state, and who wants to slash climate-science funding and instead spend nearly $70 billion on a wall at the Mexican border.”

Ever since Donald Trump took over the White House this year, our odds of surviving this crisis have considerably worsened: the property tycoon pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord this summer. The treaty, though short on ambition, represented humanity’s best chance of survival as it committed world leaders to limiting global warming to two degrees celsius. Endorsed by over 190 nations when it was signed in 2015, it was hailed as a “historic“ victory for mankind.

Without it, world temperatures will race past the four degrees Celsius mark well before the turn of this century according to the UN’s latest climate study. This will usher in changes not seen since the last Ice Age, marking the end of civilisation as we know it. And, to make matters worse, 4C is only the median forecast: the upper end of the curve goes as high as 8C.

It’s hard to imagine what an 8C world will look like. Needless to say, humans may not be around to witness it. However, standing at this cross roads, it’s important to remember that we have a choice: what we do now determines how quickly the world warms, and whether the West Antarctic ice sheet collapses.

A rapid transition towards a clean energy economy in the next 30 years could be enough to stave off catastrophic warming. And as Holthaus points out, “that’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.” In fact, the future of our children and their children depends on it.

Let’s hope that the Swans inspire with their South Pole energy challenge, for in Robert’s own words: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” After all, with a steep temperature rise sitting on our collective horizon: “The last great exploration on Earth is to survive on Earth.”


44 Comments on "The Last Great Exploration On Earth Is To Survive On Earth"

  1. Makati1 on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 9:33 pm 

    “The Last Great Exploration On Earth Is To Survive On Earth” Yep! And what an adventure it is going to be. The article had nothing in it that I did not already know about Antarctica.

    The last part of my life, after 60 years of normalcy, is to live and explore in a new part of the world to me, Asia. It has been very rewarding and educational. But world events are more interesting. I expect to live at least long enough to see the end of civilization as I have known it.

    What an adventure! And no ice! LOL

  2. Sissyfuss on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 10:00 pm 

    The world needs a wake-up call, something disastrous and undeniable that even Pruitt can’t deny. The problem with mass extinctions is their deliberate, lethargic pace in relation to human consciousness. Most Boomers can’t realize our predicament and the Millenials don’t seem to care. Just as well for them..

  3. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 10:10 pm 

    2020s To Be A Decade of Disorder For Oil -EIA

  4. Makati1 on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 10:49 pm 

    Ignorance is bliss, sissy. Most Americans live in that place where everyone else is to blame for any disruptions in the American Dream.

  5. Boat on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 11:48 pm 


    Your post could very well be correct and $100 could happen in a few years. $100 oil will also bring on supply as drilling goes crazy again. What’s different this time is the EV waiting on the high price of gas to grab market share.

  6. GregT on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 12:48 am 

    “What’s different this time is the EV waiting on the high price of gas to grab market share.”

    ICE vehicle sales are at all time highs Boat, during a period when gasoline prices are also high.

    $100/bbl oil would only hasten the collapse of the world’s economies, that are already on life support from central bank policies, with oil in the $50/bbl range. The world needs oil to return back to the $20/bbl range in order to recover from the Global Financial Crisis. That is simply not going to happen. Those days are over.

  7. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:12 am 

    We do not get to continue to survive on Earth as a species by “exploring” it more but by submitting to limits and living in balance with the natural world and in relative harmony with each other

  8. Makati1 on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:27 am 

    Would that that were possible, onlooker. I do not see any possible ability to regress to the hunter-gatherer stage before the ecosystem is gone. The few thousands at the end will be in a world unable to support even that number. The only question is where and when will that last human die. Only he/she will know.

  9. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:15 am 

    Not looking good Makati, but who knows

  10. Davy on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 5:06 am 

    “The last part of my life, after 60 years of normalcy, is to live and explore in a new part of the world to me, Asia. It has been very rewarding and educational. But world events are more interesting. I expect to live at least long enough to see the end of civilization as I have known it.”

    What is hanging out in the 27th story of a condo have to do with exploring Asia mad kat? You don’t venture very far and it is the westernize homogenized part of the city. You are never at the fantasy farm. You are here every day all day long tied to a laptop. If the shit you spew on this board is an example of education then I think you need to go back to school. It is rewarding I am sure because it is hate filled and you love that. You won’t live very long mad kat. You have no insurance and living in a 3rd world country. One misfortune and you are shit out of luck. Good try. I know you look forward to the end of civilization because you have spent 60 years rapping the world and now that it has been destroyed and you are nearing death you want everyone else young and old to go down with you. You are a lonely old man and don’t want to die alone. Where are they going to put your earthly remain. Probably in some unmarked grave in Manila slum.

  11. Davy on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 5:08 am 

    “Ignorance is bliss, sissy. Most Americans live in that place where everyone else is to blame for any disruptions in the American Dream.”

    Mad kat, you are describing yourself perfectly. That is what you do constantly here. “place where everyone else is to blame”. Amazing how you tell on yourself.

  12. Shortend on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 8:21 am 

    That guy featured in the photo has the right idea….go out in style and living life on the edge…and risking ones life, not caring about old age….We all might take note..
    On December 8, 2015, Tompkins was kayaking with five others on General Carrera Lake in southern Chile when strong waves caused their kayaks to capsize. Tompkins spent a “considerable amount of time” in 40 °F (4 °C) waters.

    He was flown, by helicopter, to a hospital in nearby Coyhaique, where he died hours later from severe hypothermia.

    Now that’s going out in style.

  13. joe on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 10:31 am 

    I would say that’s going out like an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, the circumstances of the world at this exact moment in time represent the anomaly, nobody should think and expect to have the kind of life our parents have had, the current generation dominating (gen x) watched their baby boomer parents globalise the earth and reap the benefits of scientific advancements to live into their 70 and eighties and still have quality of life their parents (greatest gen ever) built a society they never expected because for them every step was always forward, that life has come with a 20 trillion price tag (to put it mildly). Millenials don’t have this hope of forward steps forever, not unless robots do everything, and that of course means no jobs, no jobs means no money, no pension……
    So the current system is dead, we are just waiting now for the major event that will kill it off forever. Few of us will survive that event intact. Peak oil, cc, equities bubbles, asset prices booms and busts, wars and terrorism, one of these events on their own could cause revolutionary events to begin, they DID in the arab world…. The next 100 years sees all of us or our kids facing ALL of these events at various times to varying degrees….

  14. Shortend on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 10:57 am 

    Joe, live life on a tightrope… BTW, do you know who this guy is? Sorry should have included this
    At least he died doing what he loved. That was paramount among a variety of similar sentiments appended to clips and links yesterday as news circulated that Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit and the new century’s most ambitious conservationist, succumbed to severe hypothermia on Dec. 8, following a kayak accident on Lago General Carrera, on the Chilean-Argentine border. He was 72.
    At the time of the accident, Tompkins was traveling with a group that included a few of his best friends: Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia; Rick Ridgeway, a member of the first American team to summit K2, the world’s second-tallest peak; and Lorenzo Alvarez, owner of the adventure travel outfitter, Bio Bio Expeditions. Tompkins and Chouinard first explored the region together 50 years ago
    The “Do Boys,” as they sometimes called themselves, reunited regularly for fresh adventures. On this one, which Tompkins had mentioned last fall in an interview to Outside magazine, a sudden storm turned their 30-kilometer paddle into a fight for survival
    Rather be in his shoes going than stuck in a bed drugged up with a diaper waiting to die.

  15. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 12:29 pm 

    Ya’ll need to update your idea on going out. Good drugs for pain is a start. Big screen tv, adjustable bed, catered food, large screen phone. In the future an automated car will disk me around country roads with an escort. Live a little while dying is ok.

  16. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:32 pm 

    In a rational world, humans would……

    Humans are rarely rational. They are the great rationalizers. Endless rationalizations to protect their fragile identities, monkey social status & fictional worldviews.

    From Record Floods to Drought in Three Months: Unusually Hot, Dry Conditions Blanket South

    “Back during late August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped as much as 60.48 inches of rain over southeast Texas. Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record ever to strike the U.S. — burying Houston and the surrounding region under multiple feet of water, resulting in the loss of 91 souls, and inflicting more than 198 billion dollars in damages.

    Harvey was the costliest natural disaster ever to strike the U.S. Its tropical rains were the heaviest ever seen since we started keeping a record. But strangely, almost inexplicably, just a little more than three months later, the region of southeast Texas is now facing moderate drought conditions.”

    Human doom, faster than previously expected.

  17. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:38 pm 


    Your point is valid over the long term but Houston received a good rain last night.

  18. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:44 pm 

    Poor planning showed in the Harvey flood. Much of the damage happened in existing flood plains. Texans don’t like government telling us where to build or not to build. We pay with our wallet and our lives to do what we want. Don’t blame the gov, blame freedom.

  19. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:56 pm 

    Boat, keep telling yourself that comforting ‘long term’ horse shit.

    I bet I have posted over 100 unique studies and explainer articles that have concluded that some climate phenomena or important eco system function deteration is happening faster than previously thought.

    I’m far from the only one to notice the pattern.

    Dude even made a web site so folks like you could keep track. Must have forgot about it eh?

    Make some popcorn and start scrolling down down down the list.

    Here is a helpful term.


    Similar term(s): non-linear change.

    A non-linear change is a change that is not based on a simple proportional relationship between cause and effect. Therefore, such changes are often abrupt, unexpected, and difficult to predict.

  20. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 1:58 pm 

    Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 37: If the sea ice goes, so does the Arctic ecosystem

    “All life forms that depend on Arctic sea ice will be hurt when that sea ice disappears. And especially when you also depend on other life forms that depend on sea ice. Polar bears are an obvious example (and if you go a bit deeper humans are also included).”

  21. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:22 pm 

    Amazing Autumn on Alaska’s North Slope: Record Warmth, Record Low Sea Ice Extent

    “November 2017 averaged 17.2°F in Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska, a new monthly record—besting the previous record of 15.3°F established in November 1950—and some 16.4° above average. This was also the second month of the year with a record-high average temperature, the other being this past July with a 46.0°F monthly average (the fourth highest reading observed in any month on record).

    Winters in Utqiaġvik have seen a dramatic warming over the past 10 years, as Figure 1 below illustrates. In fact, it has not just been the winters. As of November 30, the average in Utqiagvik for 2017 stands at 19.5°. That value will surely drop once the upcoming cold of December is factored in, but if December temperatures are near or above average, then 2017 will still end up as the second warmest year on record in Utqiaġvik, behind only 2016 (which averaged 18.9°F). As long as this year ranks in the top eight, as seems very likely, then eight of the warmest years on record for Utqiaġvik will have occurred in just the past 10 years.”

  22. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:30 pm 

    Imagine that over the course of a decade or two, the long, snowy winters of northern New England were replaced by the milder winters of a place like Washington, D.C. Or that a sharp decrease in rainfall turned the short-grass prairie of the western Great Plains into a desert landscape like you would see in Arizona. Changes of this sort would obviously have important impacts on humans, affecting the crops we grow, the availability of water, and our energy usage.
    These scenarios are not science fiction. Paleoclimate records indicate that climate changes of this size and speed have occurred at many times in the past. Past human civilizations were sometimes successful in adapting to the climate changes and at other times, they were not.
    Large, abrupt, and widespread climate changes with major impacts have occurred repeatedly in the past, when the Earth system was forced across thresholds
    For the skeptics

  23. Anonymous on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:38 pm 

    Just saw a very good post by someone called “Tanada” on the forum site. Totally blowing away the ETP silliness. Surprised me as he sounded rational and willing to change opinions from experience. Or was he always a skeptic of the peaker predictions?

    Too bad we don’t have more people like him and Rockdoc.

  24. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:44 pm 

    Anonymous, oh my what a master of debate & rhetoric you are.

    Nothing in the annals of debating history is more compelling than – “some guy said so”.

    More of that America government education on display huh?

  25. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 2:50 pm 

    Anon, Tanada is a very smart guy, but I think he is wrong about the Etp. In any case, in the next couple of years we should know for sure

  26. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:00 pm 

    Where is that little Rat faced germany wanna be phony Green clog?

    Germany talks a good game on climate, but it’s still stuck on coal – Germany leads EU in CO2 emissions from coal

    “Germany is not the greenest country in the world,” says a climate activist who refers to himself as Tom.

    Germany has long pushed stronger global action to fight climate change. But Tom — who uses a pseudonym over fears of being targeted by police — says the reality is quite different. “It’s one of the biggest CO2 producers in the world,” he says. “What we have here basically is the best country in greenwashing.”

    Apparently, all that carpet bombing was not enough to knock the lying out of them.

    clog is just one of many fake green German operatives. Green deniers.

    What an incalculable amount of time and energy the humans waste bullshitting themselves and each other.

    Hell, the humans could have had another few decades of middle class consumer paradise if they were honest that they are unable to stop and did not blow a significant amount of energy on all that lying and deceiving. Cancer denial, Green denial – huge fucking waste, but necessary for the terrified humans to protect their fictional belief systems.

  27. Cloggie on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:16 pm 

    Climate criminal apneaman admitted he had a career in car parts selling and refinery building. According to his own standards he is sand pit material, tar sand pit material, to be precise.

  28. Cloggie on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:33 pm 

    “Germany is not the greenest country in the world,” says a climate activist who refers to himself as Tom.”

    Did they ever claim to be that? If not, shut up, f* face.

    Canada 14.1
    Germany 8.9

    Mind you, Canada manages to fart these ridiculous amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, despite the fact that they have all their insane amounts of electricity from hydro as a bonus.

    Have you no shame, TalmudTurd?

    Ah well, within 10 years time, Vancouver, like Hong-Kong, will be given to the Chinese:

    Perhaps they will clean up the mess.

  29. Anonymous on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:42 pm 


    USA! USA!

  30. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:48 pm 


    The ETP sillyness was pointed out 2 years ago by a few of us. Glad you finally found a person you like to figure it out for you. Personally I think it’s better do the research without help.

  31. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:54 pm 


    Short promised mad mak scenarios and world collapse by 2019. That’s 13 months away. He also promised no demand growth. Hmmmmmm…1.5 mbpd for 2017. Own up…The numbers are not working out.

  32. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 3:58 pm 

    Boat, that is why I said the next couple of years we should know one way or the other whether Etp was right

  33. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 5:09 pm 

    We have now extracted 84% of the the world’s URR of petroleum.
    “Several years ago Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere made the assessment that 40% of the 4100 – 4300 Gb of OOIP would be extractable. The petroleum industry did not take very kindly to their statement. It was immediately refuted by a number of “experts”. To date we have extracted 1403 Gb of Campbell and Laherrere’s 1720 Gb of URR (.4 X 4300), giving 82% of URR.”

  34. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 6:09 pm 


    I find that hard to believe. Fracking for example along with tar sands have decades of oil remaining if the price is high enough. Venezuela, Syria, Yeman, Lybia along with other conflict zones have oil.

  35. Boat on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 6:15 pm 

    Them Chinese will come out in force if you mess with their supply along with Japan and S Korea. The US, Canada and Mexico are FF set while the rest of the world will scramble. It’s a new dawn in the world of energy.

  36. DerHundistlos on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 6:47 pm 

    @ Shortend

    I agree Tompkins went out in grand style, but for an entirely different reason then mentioned. This gentleman and his wife used their immense fortune to buy the entire Patagonian rainforest of Chile for only one purpose- CONSERVATION. Now the area is under a joint management agreement to avoid erroneous assumptions that it is a Yankee land grab and on the other side, to prevent a Chilean politician from appropriating the land for $$$$$$ (sound familiar, Trump).

  37. onlooker on Mon, 4th Dec 2017 6:54 pm 

    All I can say Boat is this article fits your denial profile

  38. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 12:44 pm 

    Boat, China will soon have no oil troubles. Canada is going to sign away complete control of the tar sands to China in exchange for them building us a coast to coast border wall. Hell, throw in a bunch of logging rights as a sweetener, I say (bugs and wildfire gonna get em anyway).

    It’s the only choice Canada has if they want to prevent Manifest Destiny 2.0

  39. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 12:45 pm 

    Ventura wildfire rages over 45,500 acres, destroys more than 150 structures, triggers evacuation of 27,000

  40. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 12:47 pm 

    Deadly California Wildfire Erupts in December, Forcing Thousands to Flee

    “During the past month, temperatures across the region have trended between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius above average. Southern California is settling into drought.”

  41. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 2:53 pm 

    UPDATE:Third wildfire ignites north of Los Angeles

    Your new wild fire season – 12 months long.

  42. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 2:59 pm 

    Only 26 percent of Hurricane Harvey survivors had FEMA aid request approved, survey finds

    Ahhhh, perhaps the fine texass politicians can help?

    Instrument of Power: How Fossil Fuel Donors Shaped the Anti-Climate Agenda of a Powerful Congressional Committee

    Rep. Lamar Smith has led a strategic attack on climate science using the committee he chairs. Back in Texas, his constituents face the effects of global warming.

    His constituents are fucking retards and deserve their suffering.

  43. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 3:03 pm 

    From deluge to drought: Texas endures severe drought after Harvey

    “Weather is known for its wild pendulum swings, but this is ridiculous: Three months after the nation’s worst urban flood disaster ever, parts of Texas are now enduring severe drought conditions.”

    Guess what it means when a system swings from one extreme to another?

  44. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 5th Dec 2017 6:49 pm 

    If every American would do just
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    Jan 2nd, 2018, that’s the day we can all
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    If we all stand alone we are divided but
    by uniting in our common goal, on that
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    Will turn the corner for mankind and
    begin our new pathway for the future.

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