Jasveen Brar has visited both poles and has seen firsthand some of the challenges these remote areas of the planet face.
From seeing plastic water bottles among half a million penguins to learning about climate change, Brar’s experiences in the polar regions changed her. That’s why she decided to bring a discussion about the poles to Halifax, through the Our Poles Our Planet conference.
A friend of Brar’s, Robert Adragna, started the conference in 2016 in Toronto. They met on an Arctic expedition last summer with Students On Ice, an organization that takes young people on polar expeditions to teach them about the importance of these regions.
The poles may be far from Halifax, but Brar says the way we live our lives here has a direct impact on such remote areas. “That’s something that people don’t really realize often,” she says.
Brar hadn’t fully realized the impact until she saw plastic water bottles lying on the shore in Antarctica.
While the conference will focus on sharing stories and insights about what’s happening at the far reaches of the earth, Our Poles Our Planet is not just about the Polar regions. Brar says it’s also about getting inspired to create change around the world.
For Brar, her polar expeditions were defining experiences. But life-changing adventures, she says, can be found everywhere.
“You’re going to come across something that changes you. If it matters to you, and if it speaks to you, if it calls to you, how are you going to impact change? What are you going to do?”
Speakers at the conference will include people from a variety of backgrounds who have found ways to create change in their communities.
Keynote speaker Maike Van Niekerk, Dalhousie’s 90th Rhodes scholar, will open the conference with a keynote address. As a Students on Ice alum, she says the expedition gave her some perspective, not only on the impact that humans can have on their environment, but also on how people can make a difference.
Van Niekerk lost her mother to cancer when she was 15. She says it was while she was on her Arctic expedition that she came up with the idea to start an initiative in her mother’s memory.
That idea grew into what is now a charitable program to offset travel costs for cancer patients, called Katrin’s Karepackage.
“It wasn’t directly related to the environment, no,” she says, “but the passion from the people there, and seeing that I could make a difference, that was where it kind of started.”
“I think it’s really important to have these types of conferences in Halifax because not everyone can travel to the Arctic or the Antarctic.”
Other presenters will include Ashley Cummings from Iqaluit, who works for North in Focus, a non-profit that raises awareness for mental health issues in Canada’s North; Garry Donaldson, wildlife manager with Environment and Climate Change Canada; and Lil MacPherson, the owner of Halifax’s organic restaurant, the Wooden Monkey.
Our Poles Our Planet will be held on March 6 in the Student Union Building and is open to all high school and university students in Halifax.
Mira Chiasson writes in partnership with the Dalhousie Gazette and the Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office (DSUSO).