News feature published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 4 Nov 2012:
Wanted: Young Lankans for Antarctica!
By Nalaka Gunawardene
Environmentally inclined young Lankan men and women have a new opportunity to broaden their horizons: by joining an international youth expedition to the Antarctica!
This open invitation came from the polar explorer, environmental leader and motivational speaker Sir Robert Swan, who is in Sri Lanka on a short visit.
“Going to the Antarctica – the last great wilderness of the world, twice the size of Australia – is a life changing experience. We want more young people to experience it, and be transformed about what is happening to our environment, and what we can do about it,” he told a packed audience at the Galle Face Hotel on Saturday morning.
British born Swan, the first person in history to walk to both the North and South poles, has dedicated his life to the preservation of Antarctica by the promotion of recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change.
His non-profit foundation, 2041 (www.2041.com), operates the world’s first educational base (E-Base) in Antarctica. Since 2008, it serves as a resource for teachers and an inspiration to young people around the world.
Swan introduced Imalka de Silva, said to be the first Lankan woman to visit Antarctica, who was part of an international team of youth who spent two and a half weeks at E-Base in early 2010.
“I want more young people to have that amazing experience, so that they too can champion the local environmental initiatives in a global context,” Imalka said.
She will soon be launching a new project that seeks to link the business community and environment conservation. Already, MAS Holdings (which organized the Robert Swan talk), Coca Cola (which sponsored his visit to Sri Lanka) and Millennium IT are interested in supporting competitively chosen young Lankans to visit the Antarctica, she revealed.
“Our concern for the environment needs to be broadened into a business opportunity, and only then will society change its ways,” she said.
Robert Swan, who has been spending time with selected youth groups working on environmental issues in Sri Lanka, added: “Sri Lanka can show regional leadership in motivating young people to act on environment and sustainability.”