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UP #107: Ground Truth Trekking In An Altered Climate With Erin McKittrick

UP #107: Ground Truth Trekking in an Altered Climate with Erin McKittrick

With abrupt climate change becoming an increasingly hot topic these days—both literally and figuratively—it’s becoming more clear that our altered planet is a source of great concern for many. We have now crossed many tipping points of no return.

One of the most profound tipping points relates to accelerated Arctic sea ice melt. Why is a lack of Arctic sea ice a concern? In simple terms, the white of the ice reflects the sun back into the atmosphere maintaining a cooler ocean and thus a cooler Earth. A lack of sea ice means a lack of albedo, otherwise known as “whiteness”. A lack of albedo means that things are darker. No Arctic sea ice means more dark water to absorb the heat of the sun and create a warming effect. Think of a hot summer day. Does it make more sense to wear a white t-shirt or a dark t-shirt? The warmer the water, the more things melt, which means even less albedo. This positive feedback loop becomes self-reinforcing with no way to stop it, and thus the ocean continues to warm.

Warming oceans also mean acidification, deoxygenation and expansion. Yes, warm water expands. This means sea level rise, altered ocean current patterns, methane release and many other feedback loops that spiral out of control. As feedback loops compound, the planet becomes less habitable for many plant and animal species…and eventually for us. A lack of Arctic sea ice is a very serious problem for our entire life-support system.

This week’s guest is adventurer, writer and biologist, Erin McKittrick. Originally from Seattle, Erin now lives in the North American epicentre of it all—Alaska—with her husband and two children in their yurt. Erin and her husband, Hig, have been trekking for over a decade, logging over 8000 miles of wilderness travel. On their website, they write that their human-powered trekking expeditions across Alaska give them the “ground truth” of everything from mine proposals to climate change, through observation and conversation with locals. They then combine this “ground truth” with “researched truth,” using their respective scientific backgrounds to create comprehensive and accurate articles on key issues across the state.

Their mission is to provide people with the knowledge they need to make smart decisions about the issues they uncover, now and into the future.

This week we talk about:

  • The gratitude that comes from simple living.
  • How so much of our lives are tied to the electric grid.
  • How sea ice is a controlling factor in our global climate.
  • What is albedo and why it matters.
  • What is a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop and why it is a concern.
  • The variability of weather in relation to climate change.
  • Sea bird die-offs and climate change.

This is an important conversation that will both inspire and open your mind to the experiential truth of climate change to be found on the ground.


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