*photo taken on King George Island, highlighting the record high temperature of 20.75°C on Seymour Island

The Latin America CAPE supported Caleb Fraser on his trip to Antarctica on the Antarctic Cities Youth Expedition in February this year. He was chosen as the New Zealand representative for the Gateway City of Christchurch and joined by four other young leaders from Chile, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. Read more about his experience in an interview we did with him earlier this year. 

Our mission is to connect New Zealanders to Latin America. What were your key learnings from your interactions with the region? What is Latin America doing in the effort to fight climate change that New Zealand could learn from?

CF: What stood out most from my interactions with people on the Chilean base was how friendly and welcoming they were of me and my fellow champions. They would go out of their way to speak to us in English and even if they couldn't speak English they still tried to communicate through Katia and Florencia (the Punta Arenas and Ushuaia representatives) translating back and forth. The Chileans felt as though they had a very welcoming and accepting culture on their base which made us feel at home.
Chile was intended to host COP25 (the United Nation's climate conference) in Santiago however the political struggles in Chile resulted in the event being held in Madrid. Chile still held its presidency and proposed improved targets in an updated draft to the Paris agreement. Ushuaia, Argentina, has recently just banned single use plastic bags which will help contribute to a better climate which is something New Zealand has also done.
I think what separates Latin America and more specifically Chile from New Zealand is that NZ seems content in following the goals of the UN where as Chile is trying to strengthen these goals and meet targets before 2030 which is something NZ should also look to do.

What were some of your biggest takeaways from the experience?

CF: Antarctica is changing fast. There were some extremely powerful moments on our trip where we would look over to Juan, our project leader to see devastation in his eyes. Juan last visited King George Island in 2014 and even in 6 years the environment on the Antarctic Peninsula has visibly changed drastically. On our second day we visited Collins Glacier via Zodiac. We pulled into a small bay that Juan had visited in 2014 to get a good look at the glacier up close. Where we were standing was completely covered by ice just 6 years prior. You could see just how upsetting it was to come back to a place and see how much it had changed for the worse.
Further, on the other side of the Peninsula, Seymour Island was experiencing record high temperatures of 20.75 degrees. This really made us understand the importance of the expedition we were on and the coalition we are trying to make. We got to see how vulnerable Antarctica really is and understand how hard we have to work to fight for it.

How was working the other young leaders? What did you learn from them and their backgrounds or experiences?

Working with the other young leaders was awesome. Prior to the trip we had only really had one or two online business calls so we didn't know much of each others personalities or how we would work together. However, in the span of 10 days we managed to go from complete strangers to family. We collaborated extremely well on the formation of the Youth Coalition and equally as important we had a lot of fun making it too. Each young leader did a great job of teaching the others both about what is currently going on in their countries and some of the history as well (whether that be strikes in Chile, racism in South Africa, bush fires in Australia etc). We all came from different backgrounds and thoroughly enjoyed comparing and contrasting these to learn more about each other and how our countries differ.

Tell us how you and the other young leaders will actually make the coalition work. What will you do to keep it active and who else will you bring into it?

So the first major thing that will aid in the continued functioning of the Antarctic Youth Coalition is fortnightly zoom meetings. At this point we have specific goals in place that have due dates that align with these meetings. Some of these are short term goals and some of these are long term goals. This means that we don't just have big aspirations and not understand how to get to them. We will be constantly working away at our short term goals and updating them fortnightly to reach our greater vision. 
We understand that in order for us to bring cities together and embrace the values of Antarctica we need support. This is both from stakeholders and the youth in our community. We will be actively recruiting members to be a part of our coalition, likely forming an executive in each city with the 5 founders from each gateway heading these and ensuring communication and connection between the 5 cities continues to occur. Funding from potential stakeholders and support from our local councils will allow us to run events and provide resources to our cities that will help our cities to better understand our connection to Antarctica and enhance our ability to be effective custodians of the deep south.

Did the trip enhance your global competence?

I believe the trip has enhanced my global competence. It felt like I visited Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Uruguay, Korea and Russia in my trip and has left me much more curious and interested in the world around me. I also now recognise how important and beneficial it is to know how to speak languages aside from just English.
I got to witness first-hand in Antarctica how beneficial international collaboration can be with all these countries working together for the greater good of understanding Antarctica and protecting it. I feel more connected to different countries and different people after this trip than I have ever felt before and appreciate how people from different countries although having their own unique culture, history and beliefs, aren't as different as some people think- we share common goals and a common curiosity that can bring us together.

What are the next steps, what tangible things will you deliver?

One of the more interesting things we found that connected the 5 gateway cities to each other was indigenous values of protection of land, territory and natural resources. For New Zealand we have kaitiakitanga which focuses on guardianship, care and protection for the land.
One of the tasks I have been assigned with in the coalition is to learn more about the indigenous values of each country/ gateway city and look at how we can encourage our cities to apply these values to help protect Antarctica. This looks to create a new connection to Antarctica that isn't as acknowledged in todays society as it should be. It can also strengthen the connection between the cities, coming together through learning that despite our indigenous people coming from completely different cultures, countries and eras, we share a passion to protect the natural world.

Why is it important to have young people involved in projects like these? 

The youth are the future leaders of our planet. Especially in situations regarding our changing climate I believe that our youth are more eager to learn, more willing to accept the science and are more determined to do whatever we can to protect our planet. One of the hardest things I have experienced as a youth passionate about the environment is the urge fight for change but feeling like I am too young and inexperienced for my voice to have an effect in society. Involving youth in projects like this give us experiences that we can speak on and use to make a difference.
Further, I think that the benefit of involving youth is that in some situations youth are reluctant to listen to adults. Youth can sometimes have the greatest effect on other young minds so getting youth involved that can then communicate with other youth is especially important.
Antarctica is being affected by the actions of humans from all around the world. Our environment is far more connected than people understand. A good example of this is the Australian bush fires. Smoke from those fires successfully traveled right around the planet. The lidar at the Chilean atmospheric research centre in Antarctica detected smoke from the fires in the stratosphere above Antarctica just a week before we arrived.
The purpose of building a network across the cities is to demonstrate that we all share the same future and that even though we are all across the world we can acknowledge the importance of developing sustainable practices in our cities for the good of each other and Antarctica. We hope that this network continues to expand as our cities inspire other cities to care for Antarctica the way we do; going from Antarctic cities, to Antarctic countries, to an Antarctic planet. For Antarctica's voice to be heard it needs to start by being the loudest from those most connected to the continent.

What does being a part of this project mean to you as a New Zealander? What responsibility do you believe New Zealand has in the fight to save Antarctica?

Firstly it is an honour to represent my city of Christchurch and the country of New Zealand. New Zealand presents itself to other countries as this 'clean, green' nation which to an extent we are. But there's plenty of room to improve. I can see New Zealand as being a nation powered completely by renewable energy with one of if not, the lowest carbon footprint in the world.
Further, I can see New Zealand becoming a country that has one of lowest plastic usages with the cleanest oceans and landscapes. We already have a reputation that we can build on to become a true role model country in terms of sustainable practices that other countries can take inspiration from in the fight to save Antarctica and our planet. I believe that is our responsibility and our duty in this fight against a changing climate. Someone has to lead, and there's no reason it can't be us.
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