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Photo © Philippa Ross

By Philippa Ross – Great, Great, Great Granddaughter to Sir James Clark Ross

Life is a precious, priceless gift. Birth creates a renewed sense of hope, deep love and an innate desire to protect and create the best conditions for new life forms to thrive. Birthdays remind us of how much someone or something matters to us, the difference they’ve made to our lives and the world around us.

Russia is set to celebrate the birth of a new era established 24 years ago—an historic event when a constitutional reform to unify the rights of its people was founded to honor their sacred beloved homeland and country.

It’s a time to celebrate the chapters of Russia’s story and appreciate the wisdom and kindness of old and new characters whose art, song, dance, writing, and science influenced its growth and development. Bylinas, fairy tales and folklores add both fantasy and philosophy to the mix, often taking us on a journey of self discovery to help us appreciate our value as individuals and, as invaluable parts of a whole story, broadening our perspective on assumptive conclusions we often make as to what’s deemed to be a right or wrong choice.

Possession Island © Philippa Ross

Possession Island © Philippa Ross

I love the work of the legendary writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy—his ‘Law of Love,’ that proclaims our innate morality and desire for love and peace, his appreciation of the diversity and uniqueness of mankind and his understanding of the unity humanity has with the environment. Not only that, but he lived during the time when my great, great, great grandfather, Sir James Clark Ross (JCR), was alive—a votary of science and a revered seaman who discovered the North magnetic pole in 1831. James was an exceptional leader whose courage and curiosity took him on many expeditions to explore the Arctic and Antarctic regions—the latter recounted in a book he called ‘A Voyage of Discovery, in which he shares his extraordinary journey to find the south magnetic pole in 1841 in ships that Mount Erebus and Mount Terror were named after.

I took a pilgrimage journey to Antarctica in February this year, in part to celebrate the 175th anniversary since James discovered the Ross Sea, but more importantly, to find a connection to myself and my ancestral roots. I saw many of the 89 landmarks James named and was privileged to be taken on a special excursion with my uncle James Hood Ross to get a close up view of Possession Island, the first place JCR landed all those years ago. I had a flag with the Ross family crest and motto ‘Hope Lightens Difficulties’ made in case there was a fitting location to get a photo of us Rosses holding it up—this was the ultimate occasion. Floating ice prohibited us from actually landing on the island, so our pilot drove the nose of the zodiac onto a piece large enough for us both to stand so we could take a photo with the island behind us to commemorate the day when two generations of Rosses returned to metaphorically repossess the island.

It was the point of no return for me—the point when my journey turned into a rite of passage. The totality of my own experiences affirmed that my role in this life is to connect humanity to nature. Like JCR, I use the power of the earth’s electromagnetic field to guide me. James used it to find the magnetic North pole. I use it to find a person’s True North in my personal growth and development business. Our external environment has a profound effect on the internal landscape of our bodies, so it’s important to know what environment enriches us so we can interact with the world around us in a mutually beneficial way.

The purity of Antarctica is majestic and humbling. The tranquility is restorative, recalibrating the spiritual, emotional, mental and physicals parts of oneself to feel whole. You get a real sense of being part of something that’s so much bigger than the world we live in. It’s a place that teaches you nature has total sovereignty and the need to understand and respect that power is crucial to our survival. The jewel in Antarctica’s’ crown is the Ross Sea—the heart and soul of the continent—the last, most pristine, intact eco marine system left on Earth, affectionately known as ‘The Last Ocean.’ Her waters feed the Baikal Lake, the jewel in Russia’s crown—the deepest, clearest and oldest lake in the world.

Baikal Lake has been a World Heritage site for over 20 years—a status it received from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to honor the outstanding value it holds for humanity.   UNESCO’s mission is to protect and conserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Their sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

Photo courtesy of Philippa Ross

Photo courtesy of Philippa Ross

I want the Ross Sea to receive the same recognition. Its value to humanity is priceless. It needs marine protection to give it the best chance to remain as a pristine environment that can support the network of oceans around the world. The human race needs healthy oceans to survive, and it’s the only one left on Earth.

Sadly it’s not up to me. Its fate lies in the hands of a group of 24 countries and the EU who make up The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). As a citizen of the world you can help influence President Putin’s decision to cooperate with his international partners and become a guardian of this precious jewel. Signing the petition will help him appreciate how important his fellow citizens think this is to sustain future generations.

Russia was one of 12 founding members of The Antarctic Treaty formed 55 years ago to protect the land. This year marks the 25th year since the historic Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid. Both declarations are living proof that nations can work together in the interest of humankind for the purposes of peace and conservation. So much has been achieved since the Antarctic continents were set aside. Unlike humanity, nature has no boundaries between land and sea. She knows they are an integral part of our whole ecosystem. Mankind has created a divide, protecting one without the other. Imagine what could be accomplished if the Ross Sea and other parts of the Southern Ocean were protected too.

Serene scene at Cape Adare © Philippa Ross

Serene scene at Cape Adare © Philippa Ross

The state of our oceans is a stark reflection of our daily lives. littered with toxins and distractions. People are finding it harder and harder to survive, nevermind thrive. They’re choking on chemicals that pollute the air, soil and water. They’re pressured to live up to a ‘norm,’ feeling obliged to put on a brave mask to go about their daily lives. Mankind is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually sick. Some call it depression. I call it dispirited; totally disconnected from what makes them feel alive because they’re living their lives in a way that pleases everyone but themselves.

We were given the precious gift of life because each and every one of us has an invaluable contribution to make—the depth of which will reveal itself once we rebuild the relationship with ourselves and learn to live in unity with our environment.

It’s time to slow down and listen to the wisdom of our forefathers who respected the power nature has to change the face of the planet. She was, is and always will be the force that rules our lives. As Einstein said, the answers lie deep in nature. She functions as one entirely interwoven system, constantly realigning herself to sustain balance. She has no boundaries or agenda. It was mankind who divided the oceans and land into separate places. We’ve fought wars and created hierarchical systems that have divided us. It’s time to reconcile our differences and live as one of a kind—human kind. Mother Earth is our collective home. We do not own her; she is part of us and we of her. She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She has rights as a living entity to maintain and regenerate the vital cycles that feed evolutionary processes. Let’s treat her with the respect she deserves. Our lives are finite, hers are not. We need her, but she doesn’t need us!

Mount Erebus at sunset © Philippa Ross.

Mount Erebus at sunset © Philippa Ross.

The Russian Matryoshka dolls are a symbol for both Mother Nature and motherhood. They provide a beautiful metaphor to illustrate how both protect their young ones within—a superb expression of a family on an everlasting journey.

My journey will not last forever, but while I have the privilege of living, I will honor my gift with gratitude to the oceans for the air I breathe. While the Ross Sea is a part of my direct heritage, it nourishes each and every living organism, so it is a part of your heritage too. We owe it to our mother to protect this priceless gem so she can birth and nurture future generations.

I often wonder why we show more reverence for a priceless stone? Why do we not question the logic of placing them in vaults or special cases to protect them, yet we argue over the protection of an entity that regenerates life?

Erebus with Ross Ice Shelf in front. © Philippa Ross.

Erebus with Ross Ice Shelf in front. © Philippa Ross.

I hope with all my heart that President Putin will take a minute of his time to connect to my message as if he were looking me in the eye. A minute to feel the love I hold for the Ross Sea. A minute to feel the joy of being a part of an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration. A minute to feel the pain and fear of not being worthy of protection. A minute to honor our mother for our birth.

We have a finite time to make an infinite difference. Be glorious. Be proud. Be a global conservation leader. Be a legend. Be the final signature to grant marine protection for the Ross Sea and leave a legacy that Russia will be proud to remember, when it too reaches its 175th anniversary.

This article originally appeared on Mission Blue.

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