Jean-Louis Etienne: The Tireless visionary!
Known to the general public for his expeditions, especially to the North Pole, Doctor Jean-Louis Etienne agreed to answer our questions. Explorer and tireless protector of the planet, he is developing a new project the "Polar Pod" intended to study the Southern Ocean.
Jérôme Bloch (J.B). Before tackling the "Polar Pod" project, what is the state of our planet?
Jean-Louis Etienne (J-L.E): I distinguish two essential aspects: Global warming and the progressive disappearance of biodiversity. Let us underline that the two are connected. We have lost a lot of time because even though global warming has become a popular topic, people are less aware of its effect on biodiversity. Then comes the question of the responsibility of human beings. It is undeniable that the accumulation of smoke, particles, and other carbon dioxide emissions that saturate the troposphere is our responsibility. We have to deal with this problem head-on. As a physician, I can say that the Earth is suffering from a fever that is often a symptom of chronic diseases. The longer treatment waits, the more complications arise, the most direct of which is the reduction of biodiversity. Of course, we should welcome the COP, an initiative that regularly reminds us of the stakes and formalizes commitments, and then, above all, we must count on the commitment of young people, who have seized these subjects and who must become a driving force to implement solutions that emit less CO2.
J.B. Tell us about "Polar Pod," your latest project.
J-L.E: This is a project that will allow us to study the Southern Ocean, an ocean that surrounds Antarctica, the South Pole continent. It is far away, difficult to access, and where you find very strong winds, like the roaring 50s, that you have certainly heard about. Missions to this part of the globe are rare because they are very expensive. The Southern Ocean is an exceptional phenomenon with its 22,000km circumference, as it is the only ocean to go around the world uniting the waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Our Polar Pod was built as a platform, with a large vertical float 100 meters high and 80 meters draft. Polar Pod operates without CO2 emissions since it uses currents to move it. Six wind turbines ensure the electrical supply. On board, eight people take turns every two months: Three professional sailors, three oceanographers, and two places for scientists, artists, or writers. Studying the Southern Ocean means studying the main oceanic carbon sink of the planet and measuring its performance in terms of CO2 absorption. Our goal is to continuously measure seasonal performance over three years. Hydrophones - underwater microphones - will allow us to draw up an inventory of the fauna whose sound signatures Analyzing measurements of the quantities of pesticides, heavy metals, and microplastics will evaluate the impact of anthropic economic activities. Finally, we will validate the satellite data on the ground.
J.B. What is the key word behind this project?
J-L.E: Perseverance. It is very important to me because my entire career has been based on this idea. To persist in spite of the difficulties! Take the example of my failure in 1985, when I did not succeed in reaching the North Pole: Perseverance led me to start again and to hold on until the end in 1986. Note that I gave the name "Perseverance" to our supply ship, you can understand why!