Polar-Palooza brings Poles to the public

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Image courtesy of Polar-Palooza

I’m feeling green. Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, was chock full
o’ everything one could imagine in shades of emerald, olive, and kelly:
clovers, clothing, even the Chicago River!
Daylight Savings has increased the window of opportunity to view the newly
emerging, verdant spring growth. And last Thursday Polar-Palooza succeeded
in eloquently articulating the “green” message of environmental sustainability
in a fun, one-of-a-kind event.

Polar-Palooza is a traveling road show, part of a broader
multimedia initiative supported by NSF and NASA, through which leading polar
scientists, journalists, and local residents share their research and
experiences with the general public in entertaining, interactive forums.
Orchestrated to coincide with the International
Polar Year
, Polar-Palooza aims to paint a full, vivid picture of the stories
behind the headlines of global climate change. From the Polar-Palooza website:

“…The Poles are changing faster than anywhere else on our
entire world. Understanding the Poles helps us make wise decisions about
building a sustainable future for our species and our civilization. At the same
time, the Poles offer intriguing stories of human and animal adaptation to
extreme conditions, and insights into the real-world adventure which doing
science in such extreme conditions inevitably offers…. Why "PALOOZA"?
Like the rock tour, we hope to be a little out of the box, and always on the
edge.”

I had the opportunity to see Polar-Palooza at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C.,
last Thursday. From the moment that Penn State geoscientist Richard Alley, sea
ice researcher Jackie Richter-Menge, NASA ice researcher Waleed Abdalati, University of Alaska oceanographer Michael
Castellini, and geologist and Alaska native Richard Glenn walked onto the stage
wearing what can best be described as full-body arctic “storm” jackets, I knew
this was not going to be your typical  lecture.
Moderated by New York Times environment journalist Andy Revkin, the panelists
took turns narrating over power point presentations complete with arresting
photos, graphs, models, and video clips.

Palooza features experts
in a variety of fields, which allows for great depth and perspective on each
individual topic. It’s powerful to hear the message directly from those working
on the ground to compile the data, that are living the realities of the Arctic
firsthand. The members of the panel shift as the show tours the country, making
the program flexible and adaptable for audiences of different ages and
orientations.

The style of live performances enables viewers to personally
engage with the researchers and ask questions. It also allows for the
incorporation of dramatic stunts like a “visit” from a hundred-thirty-thousand
year-old core of ice from Greenland (you
should have heard the gasps of awe during the kids’ show)! Additionally, Palooza did a wonderful job highlighting
the experiences of the human and animal communities who make their homes in the
polar regions. These groups evince remarkable resilience and solidarity as they
adapt to changing environments.

Polar-Palooza
succeeds in promoting a message of environmental conservation and
sustainability–without being overly preachy. As Revkin explained, experts are
in near universal concordance over the scientific fundamentals of global
warming, the conclusion that polar environments are changing, and the role that
humans play in those processes. The point of contention arises only in the
perceived magnitude of the problem and the nature of the appropriate human
response. This response, of course, will be determined largely by policy makers
and their constituents in the general public–us . The
experts’ task is to ensure that we all have the information necessary to make
these difficult decisions. And that’s exactly what Polar-Palooza, Andy
Revkin
, and others endeavor to achieve–while having a little fun in the
process!

Sarah for My Wonderful World


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