How far would you go to make a personal statement about climate change? Would you forgo a second car, shift to a plant-based diet or install solar panels? How about joining an expedition to the North Pole to gain the attention of world leaders negotiating a climate deal to curb carbon emissions?
A team of middle school kids from Norway accomplished that goal by skiing to the top of the world. The mission, their training and the trip's aftermath are the focus of a 10-part TV series to debut on NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting network best known for Slow TV. Set to air on Jan. 1, 2016, the show details the exploits of four teenagers, aged 13 to 14, who set out for the North Pole on skis.
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About 600 candidates applied to join the expedition, and four young teens — Elias Damli, Erika Gjelvick, Johanne Jerjervi and Johannes Brevik — were selected. In doing so, the kids spent 11 days on the sea ice, braving sub-zero temperatures and polar bears to reach their goal. And if that wasn't impressive enough, they're among the youngest people to reach the North Pole under human power. "We spent a month training together on an island in arctic Norway," expedition member Brevik said.
Known among Nordic types as the Last Degree due to its close proximity to the North Pole, the 68-mile trek entailed hauling their survival gear, shelter and food behind them using sturdy sleds that enabled them to traverse the sea ice while on skis. In April 2015, expedition members set out for the North Pole in the company of an expert guide. Following in the footsteps of prior polar explorers, the team departed from a Russian air base located in the high Arctic, hundreds of miles from the creature comforts of home.
Prior to the expedition, each team member had to undergo months of rigorous physical and mental conditioning to prepare for the demands of Arctic wilderness travel. Among the bigger challenges the teens encountered was waking up inside a frozen tent, faced with the frigid day that lay ahead. "It was 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) inside our sleeping bags and when we stuck out heads outside, the temperature was minus 20 to 30 degrees below zero," expedition member Damli explained.
Titled "Obama, Meet the Kids," the show is the brainchild of NRK producer Havard Gulldahl, who shepherded the project from its Arctic start to its completion in Paris. Gulldahl and other producers launched a social media campaign called #obamameetthekids and a website that tracked support from other kids around the world, all part of a push to help the young activists get a chance to meet President Obama and discuss the climate change impacts they saw firsthand.
"They've been to the North Pole and conquered Paris and now they've set their goal on the White House," said Gulldahl.