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Finding Heart in the Melting Arctic

Flags from each United Nations country make up this Arctic heart. (Photo: Greenpeace)The record has already been broken – but it is about to be shattered.

This isn’t the kind of record you wish to remember and tell your grandchildren about. This is no tale of great sporting achievement like Usain Bolt smashing his way into the Olympic record books. No, this is something entirely more somber.

I’m in the Arctic as part of a Greenpeace crew to bear witness to this year’s sea ice minimum – the moment of the year when the extent of Arctic sea ice is at its lowest. And very soon we expect to hear news of a new record, breaking the one set in 2007 – the lowest ever recorded sea ice minimum.

If current trends continue, the Arctic Ocean – which research suggests has not been ice free for many thousands of years – is likely to see ice free summers within the next decade.

The melting is happening much faster than previously predicted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose models estimate ice free summers by the end of the century.

Why does this matter? Well, just as some people say that distant rainforests are the lungs of the world, regulating the air that we breathe; the Arctic is a vital organ which keeps our atmosphere cool by reflecting the rays of the sun back into space, regulating our weather systems.

Also, in the same way that our hearts pump the blood through our arteries, the Arctic is one of the pumps that makes the ocean currents circulate around the planet. No sea ice means a loss of these essential, life affirming Arctic currents, making the heart pump a lot weaker.

Hearts are precious things – they sustain us day in day out – and we should never take them for granted. The heart is also an international symbol of love and hope.

That is why on this Arctic expedition we have taken the flag of every country in the United Nations and suspended them together in the shape of a heart above a melting ice floe.

Very simply we are calling all countries to come together to take action to protect the Arctic. The Arctic needs our love now perhaps more than at any time before.

In this solemn moment the international community needs to find the heart – the courage and concern – to stand together and take action to protect this special place.

It took days of searching to find a floe that was solid enough to install our temporary art piece. Standing on the deck of the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise, watching the daybreak over the floes of ice, some thin and weak, others so deep that the ocean below was the clearest cold blue; we saw paw prints in the snow and then a lone polar bear appear in the distance – a cream blur against the sea of white.

It felt unimaginable that the breath-taking beauty we saw before us could be threatened by a handful of rich companies who care more about their quarterly figures than the future of this stunning region.

So here is the moment we must act, to stop the reckless and greedy oil companies, and the political leaders who allow them to continue.

A new global movement has formed, 1.8 million people and counting, to save the Arctic and declare the uninhabited area around the North Pole a global sanctuary for all on this planet. Wherever big companies break the Arctic silence with their oil drills, this movement will be ready to stop them.

We want to help build the biggest movement ever and that would be a record I’ll proudly tell my grandchildren about. That in 2012, we noticed, we did something, we came together across the planet and saved the Arctic – the heart of the world.

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