A 13-year-old from Ahmedabad will be going to the South Pole in 2018 to create awareness on climate change among the youth.
While most teenagers are busy ‘snapping’ on Snapchat or pestering their parents for an outing to the mall, Aanya Soni is preparing herself for an expedition to Antarctica. This teenager from Ahmedabad has been chosen for the Antarctica 2018 Expedition steered by explorer Sir Robert Swan’s 2041 Foundation.
Speaking on the phone from her boarding school, Aanya says, “Some time back, we watched Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth in school. I was totally moved by it and immediately thought of Robert Swan. I had seen Robert's Ted Talk earlier this year, which had a huge impact on me. I was also inspired by another Indian, Tanisha Arora, who was chosen for the expedition in 2017. I was over the moon when I got selected for 2018.”
Sir Robert Swan is the first person to have walked to both the North and the South Pole. He is a polar explorer, a leader in energy innovation, and Founder of the 2041 Foundation. Antarctica is a protected Pole, pristine and untouched by any kind of exploration. A 50-year treaty prohibiting any kind of exploration in Antarctica ends in 2041. Sir Robert Swan started the “2041 Foundation” to spread awareness about climate change and create leaders by 2041 to protect this treaty. Any kind of drilling or exploitation of Antarctica will impact the whole world and the continent has to be protected at all costs.
Eighty people are chosen for the Antarctica expedition every year with a hope that they make a change at a community and corporate level. Next year’s expedition is from February 27 to March 12.
Since Aanya is a minor, her mother Pratibha Soni will be accompanying her. Aanya is equally excited and nervous about her upcoming adventure. She explains,
We will have to fly to Argentina’s Ushuaia, located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It is the southernmost tip of South America and is nicknamed the “End of the World.” From there we will be proceeding by ship. We will be exploring the continent during the day and sleeping in the ship on all nights but one.
Geologists accompanying the group will point out the unique features of the ice-laden land, especially the ice shelves that have started breaking apart to help the group understand how climate change would be catastrophic.
Aanya is a bit worried about the night they will be sleeping on land, though they will be equipped with the best possible gear to protect them from the harsh elements. Another interesting aspect that she is looking forward to is sailing on the Drake Passage, which is characterised by extremely rough seas.
Pratibha, who is on the conference call from her residence in Ahmedabad, chips in, “I have already started working out to improve my fitness and I have also requested Aanya’s physical education teacher to help her improve her stamina.”
Walking the talk
Aanya’s father works at Ecolibrium Energy and helps big and medium size industries optimise their energy in a sustainable and an ecologically balanced manner. Her father’s work led to Aanya’s interest in the environment. Her sister, who is a second grader, is super proud of Aanya.
Aanya has also been a part of the “Kids4aCause” team, founded in 2015. The group has been recycling materials and creating functional products out of them to reduce wastage. They raise money by selling the products and donate it towards social causes like "IMDAD", an organisation which donated blankets and medicines for the victims of the Kashmir floods, or to "HUG" during the Chennai floods disaster relief initiative. Aanya says, “Last year we sent the money to ‘The National Indian Association’ which utilised it towards the free distribution of text books for underprivileged class 12 girls."
At Aanya’s school – Sahyadri, a Krishnamurti Foundation school – students are encouraged to take care of the environment. Aanya says, “We are encouraged to save paper, grow vegetables, reuse our textbooks, save electricity and also use solar geysers. We are conscious about our ecosystem and make every effort to keep our campus and surroundings pollution free. I would request all Indian youth to contribute to our world in small ways – by segregating garbage, avoiding using plastic, and planting trees. Every little action counts.”
Aanya's parents have been raising funds for the expedition. Pratibha adds, “We are very aware that this is not a fun trip. Since we are raising the funds for the expedition through a crowdfunding platform, we are aware of the immense responsibility. I am especially grateful to those who have contributed small amounts like Rs 100 or Rs 500 because they are not looking for any acknowledgement or publicity. These are people who just want to express their faith in Aanya and in the impact she can create.”
Once Aanya is back, she wants to visit other schools and conduct workshops/seminars on Leadership as well as create awareness about climate change. She says,
I will come back being a mascot of 2041 Foundation and so I hope I can help incorporate sustainability as an integral part of all our lives.
Aanya’s only regret at the moment is that she will not be able to take along her golden retriever Zoe on her journey.