Students on Ice honoured in NY

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Geoff Green accepting a Citation of Merit on behalf of SOI from the Explorers Club in New York on Saturday night. The details of the evening’s award ceremony at the fabled Waldorf Astoria were highlighted today on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen.

Here’s the story…

“Chocolate-covered maggots a sure sign Chelsea’s Indiana Jones has arrived. Star-studded event at Explorers Club pays tribute to polar adventurer”

by Tony Lofaro, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Geoff Green is used to leading educational expeditions to the Antarctic and Arctic, teaching students about climate change and about protecting the world’s natural resources.

Yet the veteran adventurer had to steel himself for another test of his will over the weekend at the Explorers Club gala in New York City, where he received a Citation of Merit for his educational work on the environment. The test came when the appetizers were served at a pre-dinner cocktail reception: deep-fried tarantula, chocolate-covered maggots and flavoured scorpions.

“The tarantula tasted like deep-fried shrimp, crunchy, a little bit hairy, and the legs still had hair on them,” said Mr. Green, director of Students on Ice, a Chelsea non-profit group that runs expeditions to the North and South poles.

“I don’t eat those things on a regular basis,” joked Mr. Green, 40, in a phone interview yesterday from New York.

The Saturday night dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was a star-studded affair — benefactor tables sold for as much as $25,000 — and included world business leaders, United Nations officials, U.S. politicians and environmentalists. Former CBS anchor Dan Rather was the evening’s host. Guests included actor Dan Aykroyd and animal expert Jim Fowler.

The prestigious Explorers Club in Manhattan boasts a membership that has included Neil Armstrong, Sir Edmund Hillary, Robert Peary and Roald Amundsen. It was founded in 1904 and has been described as an Indiana Jones-type gathering place for explorers and scientists from around the world.

Mr. Green, one of several honourees at the gala, is one of a few Canadians to receive the Citation of Merit. He said it was flattering to get words of encouragement for his work from Mr. Rather and Mr. Aykroyd.

“I was honoured,” said Mr. Green. “It was a total surprise and just a wonderful thrill.”

In 2004, he was named one of “five Canadian Explorers to Follow” by Outpost magazine and was singled out by the U.S. Congress for a special commemoration for his work with youth and the environment.

The Citation of Merit was for his work in raising awareness about the climate.

“The award was for me, but it was also for Students on Ice that I started. It stands as a testament to the importance of exposing youth to these issues and getting them to be inspired stewards of our planet and our environment.”

Mr. Green started Students on Ice in 1999. Since then, more than 700 students, teachers and scientists from around the world have followed him to the poles. The youths on the trips are often funded by other organizations, or they receive sponsorships and scholarships, he said, adding that the journeys are often done in conjunction with the Discovery Channel, the Smithsonian Institute and World Wildlife Fund.

“The trips are very much educational; there’s hands-on science research that the kids are involved in. We have a team of world-class scientists and researchers who volunteer their time to help out on the expeditions,” he said.

“They quite often bring along their ongoing research projects so that the youths get totally engaged in that, and there are also lectures and workshops.”

He said he was warmly received by the 1,300 people at the dinner for his message about protecting the environment.

“The idea of exploration in the old school was about being first to the North Pole, to the South Pole and to the moon. But now the new direction is trying to better understand this planet and by doing so, we’ll be able to better protect it.”

Mr. Green has two expeditions planned for this year and next year to the Arctic and Antarctic for youths and polar scientists.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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