Changing Course featured in TODAY

Republished from TODAY: Original article here.

After Antarctica trip, entrepreneur aims to bring climate change message closer to home

SINGAPORE – Seeing an iceberg the size of a building break off from a glacier in Antarctica drove home the message of climate change for Ms Jessica Cheam.

Hearing a thunder-like crack, she turned around to find the massive chunk crumbling into the sea.

“To see that in front of your eyes was a humbling experience that brought home the message that what we do in our daily lives has a huge impact on what happens elsewhere,” said Ms Cheam, whose two-week expedition with 90 others, led by British environmentalist and explorer Robert Swan, began on Feb 26.

The collapse of glaciers in Antarctica – a giant, ice-covered landmass about a third the size of Asia – due to climate change could flood coastal cities from Jakarta to Shanghai by the end of the century.

The trip was as much a journey of self-discovery, said Ms Cheam, the managing editor of digital media company Eco-Business.

She had thought she would spend her days working and documenting climate change. “(But) there was no Internet, no phone connection, no connection to the outside world and I was forced to confront myself – what is my purpose in life? What is our collective purpose in life,” said the 34-year-old, who partnered filmmaker Fraser Morton to document the expedition using 100kg of camera equipment.

Their photos and 18-minute documentary were launched at Eco-Business’ Changing Course exhibition on Monday (June 04) and will be on display at the Green Pavilion at the Singapore Botanic Gardens until July 12.

After overcoming the initial seasickness, the duo and their group spent most days exploring Antarctica and the islands around it.

They attended lectures on the ship by climate scientists, historians as well as Mr Swan, who was the first man to walk to both the North and South poles in the 1980s.

Ms Cheam won a spot on the expedition last year, after participating in a youth contest encouraging climate action organised by property developer City Developments.

The documentary, titled From Asia to Antarctica, aims to “tell the story of the climate connection between the two continents through dramatic visuals and narratives”, said Ms Cheam.

She and Mr Morton are also working on a more detailed documentary with Channel NewsAsia that will air next year. The three hour-long episodes will feature the Antarctic expedition through the lens of Asian members on the trip, such as local singer-songwriter Inch Chua.

In partnership with Mr Swan’s 2041 Foundation, Ms Cheam is set to visit the Arctic in June next year and plans for it to be a sequel to the short documentary.

She has forged multiple partnerships with corporations for the project, including OCBC Bank and Sony, which sponsored the camera equipment.

Nominations opened this week for Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) for the next term and, asked if she was keen to give it another shot, Ms Cheam – who submitted an application in 2014 – said she has no plans to do so this time, but is “not absolutely ruling it out”.

“I’m content with doing my advocacy on platforms that are currently available to me,” she said.

The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to provide more diverse and non-partisan views in Parliament.