What Does the Antarctic Mean?

What Does Antarctica Mean?

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What is it about the Antarctic that matters so much?

The world’s most important natural laboratory? A fragile wilderness in need of protection? A place of strategic geopolitical importance? A major tourist destination? 

A place of great beauty and wonder and the world’s last great wilderness, Antarctica has fired the public imagination for generations. But what is it about the Antarctic that matters so much? 

Jane Francis (Director of the British Antarctic Survey), Damon Stanwell-Smith (Executive Director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), Jane Rumble (Head of the Polar Regions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway University of London) discuss why the Antarctic is so important to us today and what the future might be for the great white continent. Chaired by Julia Wheeler.                        

Jane Francis is Director of the British Antarctic Survey, based in Cambridge. A geologist by training from the University of Southampton, she was a NERC Postdoctoral Fellow in London, palaeobotanist at the British Antarctic Survey, Australian Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the University of Leeds, where she was also Dean of the Faculty of Environment. Her research interests include ancient climates and fossil plants from the Arctic and Antarctica, used to decipher ancient polar climates of the past. She was awarded the Polar Medal for her contribution to British polar research and was appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for services to UK polar science and diplomacy. 

Jane Rumble has been Head of Polar Regions Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since January 2007, previously having spent 3 and a half years as Deputy Head. She started her civil service career in the Department of Environment, where she undertook a range of environmental and corporate policy roles, including on health and safety and genetically modified crops.  In 2000, Jane moved to the cross-Whitehall Teenage Pregnancy Unit, as a local government and environmental adviser, taking on a broader spectrum of public health policy responsibilities as the Unit merged into the Department of Health. A geographer by background, she is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She merged her environmental and social policy interests in joining FCO to work on polar policy in 2003. She is the fourth Head of the FCO’s polar brief since 1943. 

Damon Stanwell-Smith is the executive director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a membership organisation that works with over 95% of the private-sector entities who organise expeditionary and cruise tourism in the Antarctic / Southern Ocean. IAATO’s mission is to ensure that all their members’ operations are undertaken in as safe and environmentally responsible manner as possible, which includes coordinating the itineraries of all member vessels and working closely with both Antarctic Treaty Parties and National Antarctic Programmes. Prior to his IAATO appointment, Damon had a 25 year marine biology career, completing a PhD with the British Antarctic Survey, before working variously at an International NGO, private sector consultancies and six years at the UN-Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, where he led their marine programme. 

Klaus Dodds is Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway University of London and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He is author of a number of books with the latest being Ice: Nature and Culture (Reaktion/University of Chicago Press 2018).

Julia Wheeler is a journalist and interviewer who worked for the BBC for more than 15 years, including as the BBC’s Gulf Correspondent, based in the UAE between 2000 and 2010. She continues to work for broadcast and print in London. Julia has moderated large-scale conferences and chaired inter-governmental forums, and she is a chair and interviewer at several festivals including Cheltenham (Literature and Science), Stanfords Travel Writers Festival at Olympia and the Emirates Literature Festival, Dubai. 

Image: Port Lockroy by Kristine Hannon

Presented in association with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust


Name: What Does the Antarctic Mean?
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