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Fragile Frontier: Natalie Chung on her Antarctic Expedition

Fragile Frontier: Natalie Chung on her Antarctic Expedition

After journeying to the Antarctic, sustainability leader and Prestige 40 under 40 honouree Natalie Chung shares why she has never been more committed to the fight for climate justice.

Last April, I embarked on a transformative 14-day expedition to the edge of our world – the Antarctic – accompanied by Dr Sylvia Earle, a trailblazing figure in ocean conservation. As the sole representative from Hong Kong, I joined forces with a group of 116 leading environmentalists, marine biologists and ocean luminaries. Our mission was to champion eight climate-ocean resolutions, shedding light on the vital role of oceans in climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience.

Natalie Chung with Dr Sylvia Earle

Named “Hero of the Planet” by Time magazine, Earle not only holds the distinction of being the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but was also the National Geographic Society’s inaugural female explorer in residence. Her leadership and wisdom served as an inspiration to all on board. I had the fortune of engaging in fruitful dialogues with her, even conducting an interview to explore the impact of ocean conservation efforts in Hong Kong and draw lessons from the preservation of Antarctica as the “Last Frontier”. The expedition ship itself, a carbon-neutral vessel, bore her name as a testament to her lifelong dedication to protecting the ocean ecosystem.

Amid the frozen wilderness, our expedition team gathered to write heartfelt letters for a time capsule to be opened in 2050 and 2099. These letters envisioned a world where the resolutions championed during our expedition could be effectively realised. This simple act was a poignant reminder of the missing ingredient in the current global climate movement – a dose of optimism.

I was blessed with the opportunity to immerse myself in the pristine waters of the Southern Ocean. Snorkelling in icy currents, I was greeted by the playful dances of seals, whales, and penguins, which was proof of the intricate interconnectedness of complex food webs and the delicate equilibrium of life on the precipice of the world. These awe-inspiring moments were skilfully captured by underwater photographers, ensuring that people around the world can partake in the magnificence and wonder of Antarctica through our exhibition Melting Ice, Sinking Cities, hosted at the Singapore Botanical Gardens until March 2024. Moreover, a captivating documentary chronicling our Antarctic expedition is currently in production, with its premiere scheduled for next year’s Economist World Ocean Summit & Expo in Portugal.

By sharing my experiences through a wide range of media outlets and institutions, I’ve been fervently disseminating the urgent message of addressing the ocean-climate crisis, reaching more than 10,000 members of the public so far. At present, I’m also working closely with galleries and museums to curate an Antarctic climate exhibition in Hong Kong. I hope visitors will be inspired to take collective action towards a sustainable future. 

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As the expedition came to an end, I carried with me a renewed sense of purpose, a vision of a world where a shared commitment to safeguarding our planet’s fragile ecosystems could prevail. My letter to the future had transformed into a testament of unwavering dedication.

Following in the footsteps of Dr Sylvia Earle, we emerged from the Antarctic wilderness as ambassadors of hope. Armed with our collective experiences and wisdom, we returned to society ready to inspire change and ignite a global movement for climate justice through the power of the ocean.

Source: Prestige Online

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