DUBAI – Quotes from Jake Norton, Mountain Partnership Ambassador, Climber and Filmmaker speaking at The Nexus for People and Planet
Having spent most of his life in the mountains, Jake Norton was firmly back on ground level at Expo 2020’s Climate and Sustainability Week where he was thrilled to be part of a global gathering that gives critical issues such as sustainable mountain development a bigger voice. The award-winning documentary director and producer has raised almost USD 500,000 for mountain and water-related non-profit partners.
How important are platforms like Expo 2020 for highlighting the pressing issues facing the world?
“I think it’s so incredibly important to bring sustainability and these ideas to a global platform such as this where you have so many key stakeholders and players and different sides of the equation. I’m so proud that Expo 2020 has chosen to do this.”
What do you hope will come out of this dialogue?
“It all centres around the importance of mountains; we in the mountain community recognise that mountains are the water towers of the world and everything that happens up there eventually flows down to all of us – even if we live a long way away. Mountains are critically important in terms of our sustainability going forward. Our hope is that everyone here, and everyone who is tuning in to this dialogue, will have a better understanding of the importance of mountains – and the huge need to protect them and respect them.”
What will happen if we don’t act now?
“I think if we don’t act as both individuals and as global communities and really take mountains into account in our planning and sustainability, we’re in for some nasty surprises. Global climate trends are largely directed by mountain environments and so much of the world’s freshwater supply comes from mountain areas. We’re seeing these glaciers drying up, weather patterns changing, and huge detrimental effects. If we don’t pay attention now, not only to mountains, but to the climate as a whole, we as a species are playing with fire.”
Do you believe decision makers and the private sector don’t talk enough about climate change and its effect on mountains?
“Actually, it’s a unique topic today. I think a lot of the hesitancy or lack of conversation about mountains is because they’re far from many urban centres, and also because they also seem so impenetrable – mighty and sturdy. Yet, if you scratch under the surface a little bit, you see that’s not really the case. I think they’re so far removed from so many people’s lives, that they’re not given much thought.”
How do you think climate change is impacting people residing in the mountains?
“Climate change for the mountain people around the world is having a huge effect. We’re already seeing it; I’ve been fortunate to travel all around the world and one thing that jumps to mind is the mountains on the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The villagers were telling me that when they were young, decades ago, they could see the glaciers, and now they have to walk days to get to them.
As a result, our water supplies are different, our farms are not as productive and profitable as they used to be, and there’s a real fear for what’s coming down the pike in the immediate future.
We also see the impact of people who are relying on tourism in the mountains. As we get more landslides and floods or just degradation of the environment as a whole, tourism gets disrupted.”
What are your initial thoughts on Expo 2020?
“It’s beautifully done and very well thought out. I’m impressed so far. I love the fact that everything here will be repurposed later on and that this has already been painstakingly planned, so it’s not just an afterthought. I think that’s something to be very proud of, because many countries don’t tend to do that.”