From Polar Explorer to Environmental Advocate: A Young Australian's Journey to Motivate Climate Action
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24 June 2024 Share article

By Jade Hameister OAM

As the cold, crisp Antarctic air pierced my lungs and the pristine white unexplored landscape stretched infinitely in all directions, I felt a deep sense of both awe and responsibility, that remains with me to this day.


At 16 years old, I was privileged to become the youngest person to ski from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, unsupported and unassisted – and only the second woman in history to set a new route to the Pole. It was also the completion for me of the Polar Hat-Trick, which included the 550km crossing of the Greenland ice sheet (aged 15) and skiing to the North Pole (aged 14).


These incredible journeys not only tested my physical and mental endurance, but also forever shaped my perspective on the world's most pressing issue – global warming.


My name is Jade Hameister, and my story is one of adventure, exploration and transformation from a polar explorer to a dedicated environmental advocate. But this is not about me; it's a call to action – a rallying cry for the youth of today to become the changemakers of tomorrow.


My first-hand experiences in Earth’s polar regions have fixed the beauty and fragility of our planet deep into my heart.


With each expedition, I couldn't help but notice the profound changes unfolding in these once-pristine and untouched landscapes. The ice is receding, glaciers are retreating, and the very essence of the Arctic and Antarctic is under threat.


This stark transformation was accompanied by a sobering realization: climate change was no longer an abstract concept but a blunt, undeniable reality for me. It was a certainty evidenced in the landscape and underscored by unsettling statistics. The Arctic Sea ice, a symbol of resilience, has dwindled by 40% since the 1970s. The Greenland ice sheet, a titan of frozen history, is shedding an astonishing 270 billion tonnes each year. Meanwhile, the Antarctic ice sheet, a continent of majestic significance, is losing a staggering 150 billion tonnes annually.


…and all of Earth’s natural systems – on which we as a species rely on for our very survival – are linked and interdependent with our polar regions.


These staggering facts drove me to advocate for action. My expeditions now had a new purpose: to shed light on the urgent need for climate action and empower young people to join the fight.


I didn't need to be a scientist or even an adult to have an impact, and neither do you.


Many young people hesitate to get involved, fearing their inexperience doesn’t justify them speaking up or believing in the power of their voice. This couldn't be further from the truth. The energy, creativity, and determination of youth are powerful assets in tackling climate change. Fresh perspectives and untamed spirits lead to innovative solutions.


Every day offers the chance for young people to inspire change and call for global unity, recognising the urgency of the climate crisis and our individual power to make a difference. The Zayed Sustainability Prize, which I deeply admire, will soon announce its latest cohort of winners, including six student-led projects from high schools across the globe. By recognising and rewarding innovative solutions, the Prize inspires countless young individuals to become agents of change.


Now more than ever, the world needs the unwavering spirit of young people, their drive for change, and their commitment to a sustainable future. My journey has taught me that taking action, no matter how small, can have a profound impact. All we need is the courage to take the first step.


The challenge remains significant, and time is running out. The call to action is clear: the youth of today must be the torchbearers of climate action, the driving force behind the change we so urgently need. Let us not shy away from our responsibility; instead, let's seize the day with courage and resilience to ensure that the beauty and wonder of our planet's polar regions remain a source of inspiration for generations to come.