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Polar explorer uses experience to discuss effects of global warming

June 14, 2009

Will Steger, nationally acclaimed for his expeditions across the polar regions, describes what led him to become an explorer. Steger, who spoke Sunday at Playmakers Athletic Footwear, 2299 W. Grand River Ave., has traveled thousands of miles through locations including Antarctica and Greenland.

Nationally renowned polar explorer Will Steger told an audience of nearly 100 people about his experiences of walking on thin ice because of the effects of global warming when he spoke Sunday at Playmakers Athletic Footwear, 2299 W. Grand River Ave., in Okemos.

Steger, who has led polar expeditions through the Arctic regions, said he witnessed firsthand the effects of global warming — including the collapse of 12,000-year-old ice shelves and the presence of running water at elevations of 5,400 feet. He told the audience that now is a critical time to change the amount of carbon dioxide being released and that he believes change is possible.

“What defines America is our tradition of ingenuity,” Steger said. “We have this ability to think out of the box.”

Americans need to harness that ingenuity to reduce the effects of carbon dioxide because at current levels, human impact threatens to change the climate on earth, he said.

“The climate is going to spin out of control,” he said.

Nothing natural could have caused the trends in temperature; it’s “not rocket science” to conclude that human overuse of carbon dioxide is the culprit, Steger said. He said although a reliance on fossil fuels saves money by providing cheap energy, it comes with negative consequences.

“Also with that investment, we get wars, prices (that go) up and down, and we get a climate that’s almost out of control,” he said.

East Lansing residents Paul and Judy Kindel said they attended the speech to learn more about global warming. The two said they’ve been trying to reduce their own carbon footprints.

“We’re convinced that (global warming) is real,” Paul Kindel said. “We believe a significant amount is from human impact. So we’re believers. … And it’s going to have consequences.”

Curt Munson, one of Playmakers’ managers, said the speech not only offered viewers the chance to learn about global warming, but also to hear Steger’s travel experiences as one of the premiere polar expeditionists of this time.

“He’s an explorer, an educator — just an all around guy,” Munson said.

Using photographs, Steger also told the audience about his 45 years of expeditions, which have taken him thousands of miles by kayak and dogsled through locations such as the North Pole and Greenland. Steger said he has experienced temperatures of 80 below zero and altitudes higher than 7,000 feet.

With a group of five other internationally acclaimed explorers, Steger crossed Antarctica by dogsled in 1989. Temperatures of 80 below were average, and the team was covered from head to toe in cold weather attire, he said.

“It’s always much harder than you think but it’s always an incredible experience,” he said.

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