Crashing Davos In An Arctic Tent
“Davos gives you the opportunity where you can… speak science to power,” Gail Whiteman, founder of Arctic Basecamp, says on the latest episode of Zero.
Next week, Davos will once again host the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, a gathering of the global business and political elite. As recently as 2014, climate change didn't even get a mention in the executive summary sent to Davos attendees beforehand. This year, though, more than a quarter of the main panel discussions are tied to climate issues.
How did it happen? One person behind the progress is Gail Whiteman, founder of Arctic Basecamp. Since 2017, Whiteman has set up an arctic weatherhaven tent and camped out during Davos to deliver a message about the climate and the Arctic to world leaders.
Her approach to advocacy started out as a way to circumvent the difficulty of attending the high-altitude forum. Accommodations are expensive and scarce, placing Davos far out of reach for many academics and scientists. After failing to find an affordable hotel more than once, Whiteman decided on a workaround. “I said you know what, let's just bring an Arctic science tent,” she says on this week’s episode of . “Let's find a backyard, we can put it in, and we're gonna camp in it. And we're gonna use that as our event space. And we did.”
The threat to the Arctic isn’t Whiteman’s only message at Davos, but it is the most important. That’s because changes in the Arctic are driving changes everywhere else.
“As it has melted and thawed, in fact, that has ramped up global climate change throughout the world, particularly extreme weather in the mid latitudes,” Whiteman says. “So if you're worried about wildfires in California, or you're worried about the polar vortex in the East Coast of the US, or the extreme heatwave that we had in Europe this summer, and that we're having right now, but also the shifting monsoon patterns and typhoon patterns throughout the Asian side of the world, that's the Arctic calling.”
Last year’s Davos was dominated by discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the pandemic recovery, inflation, and — thankfully — climate change. This year, the Swiss ski town may feel more urgency on the last points thanks to an unseasonably shallow snowpack. “I hope it shocks the hell out of them,” Whiteman says. “I mean, you know, Switzerland in the winter should have snow.”
You can listen to the full conversation with Whiteman below, and read a full transcript here. Check out more episodes of and subscribe on Apple, Spotify and Google to get new episodes each week.
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