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Antarctica: More Than Ice

Buzz Poole
10/29/2012 - 12:17
Iceberg, via Adventure Center

When you hear "Antarctica" what comes to mind? Ice? Penguins? Barren landscapes? Cold weather? It makes sense that these are the kinds of images conjured by the word, because they are all accurate descriptors of the fifth largest continent. But, there is a lot more to Antarctica, especially when you get beneath the ice, so to speak. Over the past several years artists and entrepreneurs have joined scientists in celebrating the dynamics of Antarctica in the name of raising awareness about how this uninhabited place can teach the rest of the world lessons about ecological responsibility and climate change, among other things.

Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky) has been exploring the artistic and metaphorical potential of Antarctica for years. Concerned with climate change, Miller approached Antarctica using his background as a DJ and multimedia remixer. He writes in The Book of Ice: "Scientists go to ice fields the way I go to look at my record collections: ice is an archive of data from the planet's hidden past, preserved and ready for playback with the right devices. You could even argue that the grooves of a record parallel the sense of geologic time that is carved into the face of any glacier that has been around for millions of years." With this sort of fresh perspective, Miller has traveled to Antarctica several times and penned a book, an ice-inspired symphony that has been performed all over the world, and designed countless graphics that mash-up Antarctica's history with contemporary technologies and geopolitical realities.

The hugely successful TED programs have even gotten in on the Antarctica action. Two TEDx events have taken place there: the first was a TEDxYouth event focused on "making climate change personal" and the second, TEDxAntarcticPeninsula, was spearheaded by Darren McGann. Completely solar powered, the theme of McGann's event was "Renewable Reality," and the international audience of eighty authors, researchers, explorers, writers, and activists set out to prove that if a wholly solar-powered TED event could take place in Antarctica it could happen anywhere in the world. Doubtless, future TED events will take place in this setting, furthering the goals of these two initial gatherings.

Yes, Antarctica is a landscape like no other, and yes, there is quite a bit of ice. But the same as the visible part an iceberg reveals only a fraction of the iceberg's actual size, uninhabited Antarctica holds answers to how humans and the planet can continue to coexist without one ruining the other. There might not be restaurants and friendly locals to meet, but a trip to Antarctica will expose you to ideas that are just as relevant and important as anything you find in a museum.   

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