On May 22nd, 2008, the Tällberg Foundation, Sweden, and Forum for Active Philanthropy, Germany, gathered a group of industry and business leaders, entrepreneurs and senior members from both American and European political arenas for a Learning Journey to Greenland. The Journey’s topic was “How to stop the ice melting”, and its purpose was to study climate change and discuss how major entrepreneurs, philanthropists and funders can take positive action.
The group was accompanied by scientists at the highest level from the two continents, Professor Robert W. Corell, Director of the Heinz Centre Washington and Chairman of the first Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, and Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency.
On the opening evening the group was also joined by two leading experts, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Professor at The Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Leader of the Greenland deep ice core projects and Chairman of the Danish National Committee for the International Polar Year, and Anders Wijkman, Member of the European Parliament, Chairman of GLOBE-EU and long time engaged in global environmental and climate policy debates.
The objective of the Learning Journey was to find out the status of global climate change and discuss how current threats and crises can shift to opportunities and solutions (like alternative energy systems, technologies, social and business models, public awareness campaigns etc.). Of special importance was the debate with local representatives of the Inuit community on the link between global change and local livelihoods, which greatly deepened participants’ understanding of what is at stake when we talk about global warming.. Seeing at first hand the changes in the Illulissat, Kangia Ice Fjord and the mass of ice pouring off the ice sheet, meeting researchers at the Truffer Camp who were making time-lapse photography film of the melting glacier provided a powerfully convincing illustration of the reality of climate change.
The Learning Journey worked both with first hand experience of climate change, and workshops of discussions where experienced moderators, together with support from the scientists, assisted the participants in identifying their spheres of influence, their ability to impact the climate debate, and their commitment to support developments that can slow climate change.
This journey was considered by all involved to be a profound success. Participants noted that seeing the changes taking place first hand had been the tipping point for their understanding of the urgency of the situation. Not only were the experiences powerful, the learnings deep and discussions animated, but commitments made by the participants were ambitious and inspiring for those who organised the Learning Journey. Some quotes (confidential) from participants below;
Richard Rockefeller, Rockefeller Brothers Fund: “The Tällberg Foundation/Forum for Active Philanthropy visit to Greenland provided my colleagues from Rockefeller Brothers Fund and I the opportunity to experience in a very personal way the consequences of global warming, thus increasing our understanding of this problem and its urgency, and our commitment to solving it.”
George Polk, European Climate Foundation: “…the work that you are doing is terribly important. Beginning to lay the foundations for a different way to look at our world and our economy will allow us to react far more quickly and effectively when we realize that the current path can’t get us far enough. This work is not only necessarily — it is arguably not even idealistic — it is fundamental, as what you are saying is “we cannot continue to ignore the facts (they will not change to suit our convenient views of how the facts should be), and we must be begin to approach our future in the light of those facts.”
Ambassador Frank Wisner: “We came away deeply moved by the experience of the expert advice you organized, our discussions, the experience Greenland itself, and our first hand encounter with climate change. I am determined to serve as an emissary for your very compelling cause.”