The wild dream of working for National Geographic is a little more reachable for some students.
National Geographic came to CU Friday and promoted its Young Explorers Grants program, which gives small grants to students who want to participate in field experiments. Two of their contributors also joined to talk about exploration.
Sponsored by the CU Museum of Natural History, the talk featured photographer James Balog and explorer Jimmy Chin. Both of the speakers told their own stories about their excursions.
Starting off the evening was Balog. He is renowned in the world of photography for his often groundbreaking styles of presenting an image, such as his mosaic-style pictures of trees in his book “Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest.”
Balog acknowledges the natural patterns of climate change, but said he also believes the human race has impacted these statistics.
“Humans have become the most dominant agent of change in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere,” Balog said.
His focus for the evening, however, was on his time-lapse photography of melting glaciers, and eventually the entire climate change crisis.
As a man almost affected by the Fourmile Canyon Fire, Balog used the local forest fires to exemplify his point on the impact of climate change. In the past 25 years, the fire season is 2.5 months longer, four times more frequent, five times larger and affects an area six times greater.
Using his time-lapse photography results, Balog showed the audience the melting of glaciers in the Andes, Glacier National Park, Alaska and Iceland. He also presented a series of statistics, showing that the carbon levels in the atmosphere are at an all time high of 390 parts per million. Previously, the natural carbon dioxide peak was at 280 parts per million.
These facts were shocking to many members of the audience, including 18-year-old freshman open option major Rachel Brinks.
“I knew that there was a natural variation in the carbon cycle, but I was surprised by how high it has become due to human impact,” Brinks said.
After Balog, Chin took the stage to present a much lighter story. He recounted his exploration of the Tibetan Plateau with acclaimed rock climbers Conrad Anker, Galen Rowell and Rick Ridgeway.
He said the purpose of his excursion was to find and protect the birthing ground of the Tibetan Chiru, which was becoming hunted for its fine wool.
The four men traversed the plateau, each carrying a rickshaw with about 250 pounds of supplies each. Their daily travels averaged from 15 to 20 miles through the desert, which is known for its temperamental weather. Without a direct location, Chin said the men were often unsure of where to go.
Finally, after weeks on the trail, they found the birthing ground of the Tibetan Chiru. They used the information to petition and eventually convince the Chinese government to sanction off 1,500 square miles to protect the Chiru.
Although Chin’s rendition of the story was humorous, he still stirred thought in the audience. Anika Farina, an 18-year-old freshman open-option major, said she never realized how intense a job like Chin’s was until the talk.
“I thought it was incredible,” Farina said. “I never thought about the extent that explorers went to for research.”
A similar sentiment was shared by 18-year-old freshman biochemistry major Kortney Korber, who said she found both of the talks to be eye-opening.
“I loved the story about the migration, and I found it interesting to learn about global warming and our world,” Korber said.
Despite the different topics presented, both speakers encouraged the idea of human action to conserve and save the planet.
“We don’t have a problem with economics or technology,” Balog said. “To solve this global issue, we need to fix our problem with perception.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Matt Glassett at Matthew.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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