HB5: Send Rachel to Antarctica!

By Rachel Villani

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I'm going to Antarctica in 2020 as a member of Homeward Bound Cohort #5. My year long training starts in November 2019, and culminates in a 3 week expedition to Antarctica in 2020. But this journey isn't just about Antarctica. It's about women in STEMM. About climate change. About becoming a leader. About scientific literacy. About global collaboration for change. About increasing the visibility of women in STEMM who are changing the world. About the worldwide network of those very same women working together to protect our one and only planet. And sure, it's a little bit about Antarctica. Because Antarctica is a place at the front lines of climate change - what happens there impacts us all. But Antarctica is also a symbol - of how women in STEMM have changed the world, of global collaboration for the greater good, and it's a symbol of scientific exploration. If you care about any of these things, I would sincerely love to have your support on my Homeward Bound journey. Because it isn't just about Antarctica. It's about becoming a leader and protecting the planet.

Wetlands & Antarctica, explained:

Wetlands and Antarctica don't seem to have a lot in common, on the surface. Wetlands are found worldwide, are typically a bit warmer, full of plants, and come in a variety of flavors. Antarctica on the other hand is icy, full of penguins, and unique. But in reality both are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Temperatures are warmer, and weather is more extreme in both places. The warmer temperatures associated with climate change causes ice to melt (in places like in Antarctica), and causes sea level to rise (in coastal places like Louisiana's wetlands). That's a simplified version though, and there's lots of complex interactions happening on many levels. And that's only one example of how climate change impacts a very specific part of the world in one way. We can't all do everything but we can all do something.

So what can we do, really?

We have to do something, anything, and everything. Doing nothing in the face of potentially devastating climate change is not an option. We have to make changes in our energy sources and lifestyles, some of which will be uncomfortable. But doing nothing is not an option.

As Bill McKibben says (in The End of Nature), "The choice of doing nothing - of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal - is not a choice, in other words. It will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature."

So we need to act, but acting alone won't be enough. I can tweet all day until my fingers hurt trying to spread the word but that won't change the outcome on it's own. Individual efforts are great but we also need the big uncomfortable changes too. Scientists doing good science is obviously still important but it isn't enough on it's own merit anymore. We need women in STEMM at the front lines enacting and advocating for change as well. We have to all work together, across political and geographic boundaries, to enact widespread and systematic change.

That's where Homeward Bound comes in. Scientists have known about global warming/climate change for years. But globally, leadership has been relatively slow to act especially compared with the enormity of the problem and the global action required. Homeward Bound is building a network of 1,000 women WORLDWIDE with STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, & Medicine) backgrounds to take the lead in inspiring change and taking action on climate change around the world, together.

Homeward Bound is a year long leadership training and collaboration initiative for women in STEMM aiming to network 1000 women over 10 years. The mission is a connected network of women taking action for a more sustainable future, globally and together, specifically in the face of climate change. During the training portion I and we will be learning valuable skills in leadership, visibility, science, and strategy.

HB says "We believe that supporting women in STEMM to significantly improve their clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability, will enhance their opportunity to take up leadership roles globally, and to proactively contribute to a sustainable world, both individually and collectively."

CNN wrote an article about this: 76 women voyage to the edge of the world to fight gender inequality

But why Antarctica?

From the Homeward Bound Program itself: "Regions of Antarctica are showing the fastest responses to some of the global sustainability problems we currently face. Antarctica offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe first hand the influence of human activities on the environment and provide critical insights into the global-scale change required. This iconic environment has captured the imagination of leaders in the past and the expedition experience of the Antarctic component of the Homeward Bound program creates strong bonds between participants." Additionally, the stark and remote nature of the Antarctic environment presents unique opportunities for leadership, problem solving, coaching, collaboration, and reflection. Antarctica is also symbolic of the ways women have already broken down the barriers, how global collaboration works, and the importance of science.

Join me on an adventure!

I'm going on an adventure that's both education and expedition. I'm excited to be one of the 80 women in this cohort going on this journey. By taking part in Homeward Bound I will be acquire key skills to lead my generation and the next towards a better future by learning how to be visible, speak the message to a broad audience, lead for the future, and collaborate with other amazing women in STEMM before, during, and after the program. Together we can work for the greater good.

And this is where I need your help. This experience is the chance of a lifetime and something I have dreamed of being a part of. Such experiences require huge investments of time and money to make the dream come true. The program costs are a little high, and it is up to me to cover $17k USD for program costs, the year long leadership training, the Antarctica voyage itself, expedition insurance, and some equipment. It's a huge opportunity and it's worth the cost. Your donation doesn't "just" help send me to Antarctica - it helps me grow as a human, as a scientist, as a leader through the yearlong training program.

Any amount you can donate will help! Everyone who donates will receive a custom handwritten thank you card, possibly a small surprise, and please free to choose one of the perks!

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Rachel Villani