The Responsibility of the Mountaineer in a Time of Climate Change
Vanessa O’Brien in Conversation with Andrew Keen on Keen On
Hosted by Andrew Keen, Keen On features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the economic, political, and technological issues being discussed in the news, right now.
In this episode, Andrew is joined by Vanessa O’Brien, author of To the Greatest Heights: Facing Danger, Finding Humility, and Climbing a Mountain of Truth, to discuss her journey from suburban Detroit to Everest’s Death Zone to the summit of K2 and beyond.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: What has your mountaineering experience taught you about our responsibility to nature?
Vanessa O’Brien: Well, we have a big responsibility. There is research that shows that the glaciers in the Himalayas, a third of those glaciers are gone. So if you woke up today, saw a picture and said, oh my, those are lovely, what can we do? We can do nothing to get that third of those glaciers back. They’re gone. We can only worry about protecting that second third. So it really is alarming. And why mountaineers matter is because we are the boots on the ground that can go and collect the samples needed to see how fast these glaciers are receding and to test for any contamination. And there is contamination because all events are global events. So if we get an event like Fukushima, that event goes up in the westerlies, travels across and then down into the glaciers, so we will get lead contamination, as much as it goes down into the water and travels across the oceans. Gaia is one planet. These things happen, and you can prove it by taking samples.
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Vanessa O’Brien is an American and British mountaineer, explorer, public speaker, and former business executive. Vanessa was named Explorer of the Year in 2018 by the Scientific Exploration Society. Vanessa is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and a Member of the Scientific and Exploration Society. She is an advocate for woman’s causes, carrying the UN Women’s flag to the summit of K2.