As an adventurer and an environmentalist -- and armed with cameras -- Sebastian Copeland captures stunning images and sheds light on the global climate change crisis in photos and books ("Antarctica: The Global Warning") and documentary films ("Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul") from his global journeys. His latest trip takes Copeland and his partner in adventures, Eric McNair-Landry, on a transcontinental crossing of Antarctica in celebration of the South Pole centennial. He is also hoping to document the trek. We're lucky to have Copeland as a member of our Board of Directors and were able to reach him before he embarked on his latest adventure, for our Global Green Room interview. What would surprise us about your work?
The amount of time I spend sitting behind a desk! Because, however exotic those locations are (the Great North, Greenland, Antarctica...), the logistics, sponsorship support, organizational details, preparations, mounting photo shows, international outreach, and media initiatives in support of both the expeditions and the advocacy message that it carries -- all of that happens before I set off to the airport on one of those trips. It is paramount to the success of any of those expeditions. In many ways you pay the price for those great nuggets of exploration, or the exotic aspect of being out there, by spending a lot of time making phone calls, asking for support and filling out paperwork.
Who is your hero?
My hero is anyone who has the courage to follow his or her instinct and commit to decisions, even while facing challenging odds. That spans the spectrum from everyday heroes to historic figures. Mothers are heroes for their sacrifices and their courage. Of course, this goes all the way to public figures, those who show conviction in the face of great resistance. President Gorbachev is a modern hero for the courage he displayed by making unpopular choices. He acted when it was time to stop the dementia of the arms’ race, which could have led to total annihilation -- as almost happened between Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy. And then there are my adventuring heroes: Mallory, Hillary, Peary, Nansen, Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen; all of those who saw a goal where most people saw a void. And then pursued that goal no matter their odds, until they reached it. While sometimes paying the ultimate price.
What has been your greatest success?
I think the greatest success would be to raise happy, well-balanced, able and capable, and generous souls who can become both compassionate and fierce warriors for the planet and for humanity. I think that is the staple of success, to be able to breed the next generation of peaceful warriors. I haven't achieved that, but I'm on my way -- recently engaged and planning.
What about a failure or challenge?
I actually don't measure life in terms of its failures. Failures are just another rung in the ladder to rise up to your greatness -- they are opportunities to learn. Even in the more challenging moments in life, I've always made it a badge of honor to get up, dust off, and get right back at it. I don't believe in failure. I think failure is a state of mind, and not an experience per se. Every single challenge that I've faced in my life, whether personal, physical, or in the field, has always been an opportunity to do better. In that respect, I actually prefer challenges than coasting through because there are neither glory points in that, nor are there opportunities to push yourself to the next level and become a better person in the process.
If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?
Education. The major change will come from connecting with people's hearts and minds and creating a system of awareness powerful enough to sustain a system of change. We need to evolve from the carbon economy. This requires a market transformation. The political change that I hope to see is for the green economy to receive adequate tools and funding to fight back the carbon lobbies, and demonstrate the logical, desirable, and profitable model of sustainable development. The most effective and radical way to accomplish that is to implement courses on civic responsibility and sustainable development into the educational system. This will ensure that all voters entering the adult constituencies ten years from now would unilaterally promote a sustainable future.