I think the important thing that I’m always reminded of when I talk to global warming scientists is that very few of the ones I speak to ever had any belief in global warming, one way or the other, before they started their work. When I give speeches, people are always attacking these scientists, and I find the scientists to be apolitical creatures who are interested in basic science and who are often as surprised as the rest of the people when they get their results. I don’t really find that a lot of them have political agendas, certainly before they start their research, and that is more of a surprise than anything else, because people who are not scientists are always pointing their fingers at them saying they have preconceived ideas or that they are setting out to prove one thing or another. And they’re not. They’re just doing basic research.
Was there a sight or experience from this trip that really made climate change visible, or hit home, to you?
Small things can really drive things home. Numerous remote villages’ residents would show me insects that had fallen from the sky that they had never seen before, and they wanted to know what they were. In one case, it was a grasshopper. In one case, it was a wasp. And in another case, someone in one of the villages had purchased a Sibley Guide to Birds. These are people whose ancestors arrived in this place thousands of years ago. They know everything that goes on in regard to nature, but so many new things were going on, so many new bird species were showing up, they needed to buy a book to identify them. That continually struck me.
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
I want people to come away realizing that the Arctic is important to the world and to their own personal lives. I want them to come away hoping that the United States as a nation begins to think of itself as an Arctic nation with Arctic concerns, an Arctic population and an Arctic future.