The Northern Run: From Norway via Minnesota to Paris

It has been 3.5 months since I started my run from Tromsø, Norway. The run, named the Northern Run, is part of the climate awareness campaign Pole to Paris, which I started along with my friend Daniel Price. With only a few days left until the planned arrival in Paris for COP21, a look back at how I got here might be appropriate. This retrospect includes Minnesota and Climate Generation.

erlend-avatar1-1.jpgI was born and raised in Sandefjord, in southern Norway. From an early age my parents would take me and my two siblings hiking, skiing or simply being outdoors. I quickly learned how to love nature. With love comes care.

As I got older, my trips got longer and wilder, including two expeditions on Svalbard in the Arctic. I soon realized how vulnerable a human is when facing the forces of Mother Earth. However, I also saw clearly how vulnerable she is to our actions. This was especially visible when I spent half a year living on the archipelago at 78 degrees north, studying snow and ice.

It thus came as no surprise when I decided to pursue a PhD in Arctic climate. Having defended it last March, I had spent nearly four of my 29 years specializing in how the diminishing sea ice is altering the atmospheric circulation and the livelihood of people depending on it.

One of these persons is Will Steger. He does not directly depend on it in his daily life, but his life has several times depended on it for his extraordinary journeys in the polar regions. More than that, through his returning expeditions to the Arctic, he has witnessed the changes taking place at an alarming pace.

I met Will having just returned from my studies on Svalbard and after finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I was one of 12 Norwegian students in natural sciences who, through a Fulbright program, visited Minnesota over six weeks in the summer of 2009. This took us to Ely, where we learned about sustainability and interdisciplinary implications of Arctic climate changes by the Will Steger Foundation (later renamed Climate Generation) team. It was a life changing experience.

I went on to do a Master’s and later a PhD degree. Although these studies were confined to the natural sciences, I always kept my interest and passion for the bigger picture. As often as I could, I would do outreach, linking my scientific background to the background of my audience.

These presentations brought me back to Minnesota for the fourth time last winter. It was a turning point. Here, the plans for the rest of the year came alive.

Pole to Paris has been my work and lifestyle since March. Working days and nights, the project has come a long way due to a team of engaged youth. Dan and myself have cycled 10,000 km this far and Dan has crossed most of Asia on his bike, while I have covered some 2200 km from the north with one more week into Paris to go by foot.

Along the way, I have been giving presentations and organizing events along with partners – on average nearly one every other day. In Paris, this will continue, where we will showcase the stories from the two journeys across the world. These are both our stories from the bicycle and the running shoes, and the many stories from people we met along the way – the stories of a lifetime of changing environmental conditions.

I hope to join one of the events by Climate Generation while in Paris, especially when the organization has personally played a large role in my path in environmental sciences.

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