The Brighter Side of Climate Change Education in Antarctica: The Melting Continent by Karen Romano Young
It’s all there in the dramatic title of our book: Antarctica is, indeed, melting.
But there’s a whole lot more to that story, and this book is the place where children can start finding out about it. If learning about climate change lights a fire in their minds, and invites them into the challenges we face, to contribute with their creativity, intelligence, and experience, then this natural catastrophe has an up side.
The rest of the tale involves the past —ancient history, the present — what’s going on here? — and a realistic, yet fantastic look at the future in which humans change the way we relate to the Earth, live our daily lives, and plan ahead to invent a system that constructs rather than destroys.
Yes, everyone doing research in Antarctica is, in some way, studying climate change — and there’s plenty of drama there: receding ice that reveals new islands along the shoreline; penguins changing their migration paths and nesting sites; thawing glaciers that could create worldwide flooding. But the flip side of those dire observations is a new sensibility that looks for solutions and opens to new technologies.
Here are a few examples from Antarctica: A Melting Continent.
1. Discoveries of fossils — of conifer trees, dinosaurs, and even frogs — speak to a past before the Southern Ocean cut off and froze Antarctica.
2. Chuck and Maggie Amsler, divers studying the massive, diverse, hidden ecosystem under the sea in Antarctica. This is where the Antarctica forest is, as Chuck loves to say — complete with the mechanisms seaweeds display that demonstrate their ability to change as conditions do. Yes, their name is on one of those newly-revealed islands (a dubious honor) — but their undersea discoveries give them insight into the potential of these adaptations not only in Antarctica, but maybe in human health.
3, The technology of putting satellite transmitters on the heads of deep-diving seals, so they can retrieve data from the depths, helps scientists paint a picture of the changing conditions under glaciers — and model the future.
Sure, it’s cutting edge science! But for every discovery made, new questions arise, and if there’s anything obvious about Antarctic research, it’s how new it is, how difficult, and how incomplete.
People dwell on the catastrophe of climate change, without focusing enough on the creative innovations — and open doors to new genius — that humans are led to. This is the challenge of the next generation. The purpose of Antarctica: The Melting Continent is to show kids what’s going on, but also to welcome them in. Antarctica is stunningly beautiful, and there are opportunities worldwide to visit, work there, and make discoveries of your own.
If, after reading this book (and perusing Angela’s gorgeous pictures), readers want to have their own Antarctic adventures, we’ve done our job. Why? Because we want them to go. We want them to work there. We want them to see this shared international territory as their territory and their future.