(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Sat 4 Dec 2021, 10:08 AM
Sat 4 Dec 2021, 12:16 PM
Three young Emirati climate activists travelled to the ends of the earth, slept on bags atop thick layers of ice and struggled to breathe in sub-zero temperatures.
But none of these challenges could've deterred them from their mission to protect the environment.
The three climate activists shared their experiences of travelling from a desert to a deserted land at an event organised by Zayed Antarctic Lights at the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Ameera Mohammed AlHaranki Almarzooqi, a climate conservationist, has been on three expeditions in total - two to Antarctica and one to the North Pole.
'My first expedition was to understand the history and environment of Antarctica and bring up future leaders to combat climate change. We returned from the expedition, to our communities or countries, to spread awareness about how important it is to protect the continent,” she said.
Ameera became the first Emirati to reach the Union Glacier in Antarctica in December 2016.
'The expedition was taken to test out renewable energy equipment in the harsh and cold environment of Antarctica, which was successful. If this renewable energy can be used in this type of environment, it can be used anywhere in the world,” she said.
Her expedition to the earth's coldest continent was akin to a wilderness experience. 'It was a freezing time we spent there, but it was all worth it,' she said, adding that her experience was nothing short of 'exhilarating'.
She said the trip changed her life, and she returned to the UAE with a new fervour to protect the earth and its wildlife.
'The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it,' she said, quoting her mentor, Robert Swan.
Abdulla Alhussam, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed adventure junkie. When he went to Antarctica, he was simply chasing thrills, but the trip inspired him to become a member of the UAE diplomatic delegation to Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
'I am an ardent adventure person,' he said. 'The moment I heard about the Antarctic expedition, I made up my mind to go for it ... before even registering, I was sure that there was no guarantee of return.'
The initial hurdles of convincing his family of the journey didn't compare to the challenges that came later.
'(There was) the travel to Brazil, followed by a city in Chile, and then a boat ride, which took over 40 overs without sleep,' Abdulla said. 'The next challenge was the living conditions, which I had not thought in my wildest dreams. We are from a place where temperature goes to extreme levels, but we reached a place that was entirely the opposite. It was really difficult to even breathe. But I made it and I am proud.'
While he was in Antarctica, Abdulla decided to join the millions who have taken an oath to avoid single-use plastics.
'I wanted to make a bigger change,' he said. So, when he returned to the UAE, he opened up a recycling factory.
'(It) turned out to be very successful, by which I did not just make money, but I proudly contributed to the reduction in environmental hazards.'
Abdulla also opened a second factory that recycles over 150 tonnes of plastic every month. The third project he is working on is developing marine life in the region.
'When I was in Antarctica, I saw how the marine life was affected and learnt about the cause,' he said. 'Similarly, I read on how marine life is being affected by the man-made projects in the region.'
The Ministry of Environment reported a huge decline in coral reefs in the region, which Abdullah noted will lead to a host of problems.
'As I am a diver, I have taken up the challenge to save and protect the coral reef for a flourishing marine life,' he said.
Fatima Al Mulla, who works at the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, first went to Antarctica while doing her post-graduation in Australia.
“I got a call from the Masdar and they said I was nominated to go to Antarctica for a mission,” she said.“We would go and explore the research station to see what are the opportunities that exists in order to transition towards towards more sustainable usages of energy.'
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The second part of Fatima's research was to study the waste that has been dumped in the uninhabited continent.
'We studied the treatment method of such waste and how the treatment can affect the climate and environment,' she said.
Though humans don't reside in Antarctica, Fatima said the waste that has been dumped is enormous.“The continent has faced and is facing the negative effects of waste. Just imagine what can be the condition of the land we live in, with tonnes and tonnes of waste - that hit me the most,” she said.
Fatima added that she is happy to see young Emiratis prioritising sustainability and taking proactive steps to protect the environment.
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