Antarctica or Bust!

While on the phone with his mother one morning, Nicholas School of the Environment graduate student Drew Stuyvenberg asked, "Have you ever known anyone who has been to Antarctica?"


 After a pause, she said, "No...and I don't want to!"


 "Well," answered Stuyvenberg, "You will...."


 The prospects of that conversation have become a reality for Stuyvenberg, who left Sunday for Antarctica with 41 other people from around the world. The expedition, sponsored by Coca-Cola and Inspire!, an environmentally-oriented adventure travel company, will mainly focus on helping Coca-Cola and its employees be more conscientious of the effect that a large corporation can have on the environment.


 Inspire! was founded by Robert Swan--the first man to walk to both Poles unsupported--with the goal of ensuring the renewal in 2041 of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. Swan, who realized that people needed to see Antarctica to understand the importance of its preservation, started Mission Antarctica by sending crews to remove waste from the Russian base, Bellingshausen, on King George Island. After over 1,000 tons of solid waste had been removed, the 2003 expedition began implementing a sustainable waste program on the base. The 2004 expedition will continue working on the project.


 Stuyvenberg was selected as part of the expedition's North American team for his interest and expertise in environmental policy and waste management. The Green Bay, Wisc., native has traveled often in North America--he climbed his first Fourteener and visited Rocky Mountain National Park, the Badlands, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde in the past year and a half, but has been abroad only once--Europe.

"I've seen pictures, heard stories, read books," said Stuyvenberg of Antarctica. "All I know to expect is rugged, pristine landscape... and [I know I'll have] the opportunity to see it with 40 individuals from around the world who have different contexts than I have."

Stuyvenberg's interest in natural sciences led him to major in biochemistry and political science while at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc. Upon graduation, he worked at WasteCap Wisconsin, a small Milwaukee non-profit that helped businesses to reduce waste and start recycling.


 "[Recycling and waste management] is something we tend to overlook," said Stuyvenberg, adding that the push for waste management has fizzled out over the years. "How do you spur people to consider where their trash goes when they're done with it?"


 The desire to make people understand the implications of their actions is something that Stuyvenberg is going as far as Antarctica to fulfill; perhaps more people than his mother will be shocked, but then interested as well, in what Stuyvenberg is asking them to consider.

The 2004 expedition participants met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they were briefed on their mission. After a brief visit to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in South America, the crew then heads down to King George Island. The crew will stay in what is called a "Recycled Base Camp" for three to five days. Stuyvenberg said they'll be living in a yurt, a Mongolian-style dwelling often made of boiled yak hair. The crew will then trek to the Antarctic Peninsula for another three to five days before venturing back by boat through the Drake Passage, where the potential of 40- to 50-foot seas could be the most dangerous part of the trip.


 Stuyvenberg, who had most of the gear he needed for the trip already, says he checked out the weather forecasts for Antarctica when he found out he'd be going. "It's warmer there than it was here during the ice storm--it's summer there," he said.


 In the future, Stuyvenberg hopes to have more opportunities to combine his love of the outdoors with his environmental management interests. "[The trip] is a peripheral opportunity that grew out of solid interests that I have," said Stuyvenberg, hoping this trip will lead to another.


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