Ignacio Baena Vega (Spain)

Masters, Universidad Pontificia de Chile

I was born and raised in the island of Mallorca, in the Western Mediterranean Sea. I spent most of my childhood and teenager years in Mallorca and Barcelona, but it was not until I left towards the Arctic to study Marine Resource Management when I really realized about the differences between where I had been living and this new territory.

The opportunity of spending almost a year learning about the coastal and marine environment in such a special and unique place was an unforgettable one. In Ísafjördur I was able to be taught about Arctic issues not only in class but by hanging out with locals who shared their standpoint on matters such as climate change, overfishing or globalization. Although being a student hindered the chances of travelling all around the country as a tourist would do, it did foster a deeper connection to the town and its people. Furthermore, these past months I have been working on the master’s thesis in Chile and, although it was for a shorter period, I was lucky enough to visit the southern tip of the country and, despite the distance, the similarities between the characteristics and issues faced in Land of Fire and the Land of Ice were undeniable.

Being aware of how current environmental and economic challenges affect high latitude areas is completely different to witnessing it with your own eyes. After this, the contrast between my homeland, arguably the most anthropogenic marine environment of the world, and these areas became more vivid than ever and the realization of the need of better practices is clear. I cannot help but envisage how disheartening it would be to let us follow the same road again. We need to learn and understand the Arctic to make wise choices and safeguard its integrity. Hence, I am currently finishing my master’s thesis and looking for new projects that can be useful bearing this objective in mind.

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