Arctic Locale: Local Residents Travel FAR South to Bring Back Lessons and Stories 

By Zach Rosen   |   April 21, 2022
Casey Rogers (left) and Kiah Jordan recently returned from a two-week eco-minded journey through Antarctica

Think globally, act locally. It is a phrase often used in regard to the environment, especially on Earth Day. But sometimes, to really know how to think globally, it helps to get out into the globe. Traveling to other parts of the world helps us understand the interconnectivity of our world communities and the impact our local actions have on them. Antarctica is one part of the globe, not often traveled to, but just as affected by our local and global actions. 

Casey Rogers, Director of The Ellen Fund, and Kiah Jordan, Founder of Impact Family Office, recently returned from an Antarctic voyage aboard the Ocean Victory. This ecofriendly ship uses 60% less energy than comparably sized boats and has the lowest carbon emissions per passenger in the entire industry. Organized by polar explorers Robert and Barney Swan, this trip brought along 150 leaders (ages 14-70 years old) from 37 countries for two weeks of climate talks, brainstorming, and eco-minded adventures. Joe Bourdeau, through the newly formed RSO Foundation, nominated and funded Rogers and Jordan’s trip, recognizing their aptitude for leadership and ability to help communicate the lessons learned along the way. 

The following is the extended interview with Rogers and Jordan from the published article in the Montecito Journal (Volume 28, Issue 16)

Zach Rosen (ZR): Could you both tell me a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with this expedition?

As to be expected in the Arctic: Penguins

Casey Rogers (CR): I’ll dive in. Kiah and I came to this in a similar way, in that we were nominated and funded to go on this expedition by Joe Bourdeau, who is the founder of the RSO Foundation. And that came from sort of new relationships that both Kiah and I had formed with Joe over the last year. I mean – you’ll have to ask him – but what he has told us, is that he saw in us very inspiring leadership qualities. He has had a long-standing relationship with Robert Swan, the host of the expedition, and really wanted to bring all of us together. 

I would say beyond that, I’ve spent the majority of my career in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. While conservation is really the aim and the focus of my work, currently, there have been through lines of that theme from the very beginning when I was working as a teacher in Libya, and took students to visit a cheetah conservation, for example, to understand issues around wildlife and human conflict. Also raising two kids makes planet Earth something that I think a lot about in terms of stewardship and what to leave for the next generation.

Kiah Jordan (KJ): As Casey said, with us getting to know Joe, and Joe identifying and nominating, and introducing us to Robert Swan. I’ve had some similar lines as Casey. I kind of think our philanthropic routes and passions have led towards a more and more environmental perspective. As I look back on life, it’s always been there. 

I recall when we moved back to the United States from New Zealand in ‘94, New Zealand was in a pretty severe drought. And so, although it felt normal at the time, we would take the water from our washing machine and use it to flush the toilet and have a timer in our shower. That idea of conservation was instilled at a very early age. And being in Santa Barbara now for 20 years, I think every nonprofit venture I’ve been a part of – so I serve on four different boards right now in town – there’s always this environmental overlay. 

There’s always an environmental impact that affects everything from homelessness to the food systems, to how we think about leadership and diversity. Our Sustainable Change Alliances – as we think about investments, opportunities, technology, and startups – it’s just been like a vein throughout that continues to grow as really an overriding perspective you can’t overlook. I think Casey and I really aligned in the environment, being such a critical component of all that we do. I have four kids, so very similar the conversations. 

When my son was six, one Saturday morning, he’s like, “Dad, we have to build a compost.” He’s been part of the garden program at Brandon Elementary School. When they offered that before COVID, he’d stay after school and garden and all of those types of things. So this trip I think really brought to the forefront a lot of really critical things. 

I know for me that I learned how to bring back both the importance of what’s going on in Antarctica, as like a symbol of it, and that broad application to everywhere we are. With Santa Barbara’s massive focus on environment through so many nonprofits – Earth Day starting here, CEC, all those things – it’s felt like such a critical message that could land really well in our community for more focus. 

I think Casey highlighted in those notes, this component of the Antarctic is a piece but then the people that were there are another major piece – that global connectivity that we had. I think Casey and I have had our phones just blowing up on WhatsApp, coming home with 140 people. This community now, from all over the world – Africa, India, Europe, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia – connecting on technology, our shared interests, and all of these different things. And how we can take this to our spaces in a bigger way than just our individual efforts?

Antarctica is, on average, the driest and windiest place on Earth
Antarctica is about the size of Australia and the continent doubles in size during winter when the ocean waters around it freeze

ZR: Could you tell us a little bit about the purpose of this expedition?

CR: The 2041 Foundation and ClimateForce host this leadership expedition and the goal is ultimately to make champions for Antarctica. So that when this international treaty that governs Antarctica – reserving it for science and peace – comes up for international conversation, there are literally thousands and thousands of “friends of Antarctica,” if you will, around the world who really advocate that no drilling and no mining ought to happen there, and that this continent ought to be reserved for the whole world. Yeah, in a quick way, that’s what I would say.

KJ: I would just add that Antarctica is such a critical place, with holding 90% of the ice in the world and 70% of the freshwater, that it also has such a massive impact if it were to continue to melt – you know, with the projections that we see. So it’s one of those places that you can tangibly experience the effects of climate change, especially as you hear about how it has changed over the last number of decades. And then also how to think about why it’s important to the rest of the world. So it really takes you to a place that is stunning in its beauty, and I think accentuates a bit of the devastation and potential consequences of climate change.

ZR: Which leads me to the next question: what were the most important lessons that you took away from this trip?

CR: My gosh, there are a lot. I sort of feel like just rapid firing, you know, the different ideas. One is harkening back to what Kiah said earlier, which is that amongst people from 37 different nations, there are a heck of a lot of climate positive activities happening worldwide. And so many more than I was aware of – and I’m somebody who’s in this space looking for good news stories on a regular basis to share with followers of The Ellen Fund. So that was really a tremendous and heartening takeaway. The other takeaway or lesson is just that it’s all about speed and scale, in terms of climate positive solutions, like we know what’s needed, and we now have to increase the pace and increase the scale at which we ramp all that up.

Antarctica contains about 90% of the planet’s freshwater ice and around 70% of the total freshwater on Earth
The threat of climate change will affect the whole world, not just where there are people

KJ: Yeah, I agree with everything Casey said, and there’s a vein of unity that came through this trip – with the 2041 Foundation focused on 2041 as the date in which the global treaty that governs Antarctica is up for renegotiation. Then there’s a seven-year period before it expires in 2048. There’s, I think, almost 70 countries or so that are involved in this treaty, so [the 2041 Foundation is] highlighting it for attention. That’s going to be necessary at that date to preserve this great wilderness, and for the implications that has on the Earth. In that same way, there was a vein of global unity across this trip – no individual effort of a person or a single nation is going to accomplish this. And as an expedition of 37 countries, that global unity is going to be necessary, not just for this treaty (which I think was an example of that), but to affect the world, issues, emissions, and climate change with the trajectory that we’re on. So that was a huge takeaway for me. And I left going: Gosh, what more can I do? What can my company do? How do we have a bigger impact on the world? Through our company operations; through the clients that we work with; through the people? How can I be a better ambassador to the world in what we’ve learned and what we’ve taken away? And what change is necessary?

150 leaders jumped aboard green-cruiser Ocean Voyage to learn more about climate change, Antarctica, and what can be done

CR: Absolutely, yeah, I just want to underscore that collective action idea, Kiah. Because I particularly think in the American context… I mean, we are a very individualistic society. That’s something that’s really lauded and recognized. But to make significant progress at keeping [global] warming to a minimum – it’s collective action. It’s about what are we doing in families, businesses, communities, and countries. And the individual decisions matter? Absolutely, they do. But it’s about a roll up of all those decisions, but then also a policy framework that gets at the speed and scale that I mentioned.

ZR: What would you like readers to know about what they can do to help Antarctica?

KJ: I mean, two weeks ago today was when we got off the boat after the trip in Ushuaia, and I think the reflection and processing from that trip is still happening. You know, there’s a bit of reentry when you come back from a culture that’s not been your own. How do you readjust in your own culture? And even though it was only two weeks long, I feel like there’s some reentry I’m going through. So it is: why is Antarctica special? Right. And I think what I’d love for readers to think about, areas to understand, is that when we’re here: you might be able to see and feel the impacts of our consumerism, our world on the environment. Right? We can smell the gas emissions from a car or we can see trash in the streets. So we’re down at the beach. Antarctica is an untouched place. I mean, we washed our boots every time they left the ship and came back to the ship. You don’t pick up a penguin feather. You don’t pick up a petal or any of those things. Everything is supposed to stay untouched and preserved. And yet we see the effects of climate change. We see the effects of our decisions on the other side of the world. So our local actions do have a global impact. And when you see it in a pristine place like that… you know, our last day I was walking the beach on Deception Island and found a chunk of Styrofoam on the beach. Like, how did that happen? That could have been from Santa Barbara. So I think what people need to understand is that the [climate change] effects are being shown, even in a place that there isn’t ongoing human contact. That highlights even more for me the impact it’s going to have on places that people are. And that’s where we get into the environmental justice issues. But, you know, to see a place that is separate from humanity, in many ways, being impacted by our humanity, was obvious.

CR: Yeah, that was very beautiful, Kiah, by the way. There’s a wonderful climate scholar and advocate by the name of Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. And I’m just going to paraphrase this… but basically, she talks about how each of us ought to identify what are our core talents, skills, and passions, and what is needed (related to climate), and work at that nexus. Because there is plenty to do and everything to do when it comes to working towards Net Zero to being climate positive. So I don’t really think that it’s super useful to say like, well, this is better than that. Yeah, of course, we know there are charts, there are resources that will tell you that – an electric vehicle is better than planting one tree or whatever – but it’s really about finding that sweet spot where your unique talents and passions intersect with what the Earth needs and go for it. Run at that. That will have longevity. And really, not only is there room for everybody to be involved – it’s a must. 

ZR: And to Kiah’s point too – whatever you do here is ultimately going to have an effect on Antarctica and the world.

CR: Totally. I think that – like the winds in the Sahara have an impact on the Southern Ocean – one: it’s true. And two: it really drives home that interconnectivity and why this has to be collective, right? It’s not just about what one place or one people does.

ZR: And something a little bit fun to kind of wrap things up: What surprised you the most about Antarctica when you were there?

CR: So many penguins! I couldn’t believe it! I mean, you know, whales are immense, huge, and we were so fortunate one day to see many all at once – like three over here and four over there and two over there – but when you step on the Antarctic Peninsula, there are just penguins for as far as the eye can see. And they’re all moving around taking pebbles, eating ice, coming out of the water, to me – I wasn’t expecting that, and that was really fulfilling.

KJ: For me, there was this perception of Antarctica as, you know – ice as far as you can see, right? That it’s just homogenous in its presentation and yet it was incredibly diverse as well. The first day, we had a blizzard with snow flying horizontally as we stood there looking at penguins for the first time. And by the afternoon, we were taking pictures in the sunlight with absolutely beautiful icebergs, some that are 10,000 years old, the diversity of – even the shapes of the icebergs, the color of the icebergs – you have these really old ones that have no air bubbles in them and they’re transparent, to ones that are just like a fluorescent blue neon, to greens. 

So even over the course of, I think it was like four or five hours, we saw this diversity of climate that made every day a question of what it was going to look like. Every day in it highlighted the diversity of the location with, “Hey, we don’t even know if we can go to this place because the winds or the ice are going to be like this today, or the waves are going to be like this another day.” And so the diversity within this expectation of – oh, it’s just an ice covered continent – I think added to the beauty of the place. They constantly kept telling us, “Don’t miss the experience for the photo.” There were incredible photographers and videographers there, and it was just like – put down your phone and go sit in silence. I think when we did that, and talking with others who did that, that was where they experienced so much in the silence and the immensity and the beauty of the place. 

CR: Yeah, I think what’s interesting about that, is that Antarctica actually isn’t very silent. It’s silent in the sense of like, not the noises that we’re used to, but the wind – oh my gosh – that’s like the main character in the Antarctica story. And whales, you’ll first hear them, when you hear them, exhale, before you see them. And as you say, Kiah, sort of like ice and water lapping on the edges of icebergs. Yeah, it’s something to take in for every sense.

ZR: Beautiful. And then what was your favorite memory?

CR: Oh, that’s hard… It’s really hard for me to say any one thing. I think I have to come to the enormity of it. It was going to a place that I actually never thought I’d go to. It was the luxury of having time to experience a place where we were disconnected from WiFi and just the pull of the day-to-day, these rich relationships that we fostered. And then, honestly, just being in awe of nature, right? Feeling so small and being able to take in that wonder. I mean, hiking in the mountains in Santa Barbara gives me that same feeling, but this was just supercharged. 

KJ: Yeah. I’ve been telling people since I’ve been back that, as amazing as Antarctica was, the people made it incredible. I think the last day for me, which might be very memorable to you, Casey, but not as enjoyable, was going for a swim in the one degree Celsius water. 

It was such this highlight of, again like Casey just said, spending 10 days on a boat with – you know, paying for WiFi was outrageous and they said just don’t do it – having this disconnection. And I felt this disconnection from the pressures of humanity, in a lot of ways, right? Consumerism was gone. All things were provided on this boat and we’re all having a shared experience that then developed these relationships. To go out, go for a hike together, come down, strip down and jump in the water, that’s one degree. And I think of the 150 people, maybe one person didn’t do it, maybe two. You have this like, intensity of this shared experience, that galvanizes you even further with everyone else that’s there. And I was looking for that the whole time. I even jumped in the water in Argentina and Ushuaia, just after a beach cleanup, because I love it. 

But that experience was one more of those things that creates unity across this massive diversity of people. So I really just enjoyed the opportunities we had. I mean, to stay up as late as we did with people. We, you know, the last couple of nights… We ended up just being like, arm-in-arm around a piano till two or three in the morning, singing and dancing and having fun. It was like those barriers that can disconnect people were gone. 

CR: And I am glad I did the Polar Plunge dive – even though I hate being cold.

ZR: Well, as we wrap up, is there anything else you want to add?

CR: I can’t hesitate to take the opportunity to just pitch something that Kiah and I talked about in coming back – which was that we would love to see at least two people from the Santa Barbara community, ongoingly, go on the 2041 expeditions going forward. Kiah and I have taken a lot of strength from doing this together and making it a collaborative effort. Then being able to come back and have each other as partners to implement things. As you said earlier, Kiah, Santa Barbara is known for being such an environmentally minded place. Wouldn’t it be cool just to see this cadre of leaders committed to… just pushing the envelope when it comes to the environment? Where else can we take this? What else can we do? Collectively, what can our place do? 

KJ: Yeah, I just fully agree and support that as well. We are in a place of privilege, and a privilege that allows this experience to happen, right? I think Casey and I had a unique experience because we weren’t one of the 40 students fundraising to go on this trip. Most people on the trip fundraised to go. And we had an experience that was a little different in being nominated and selected. So I think in this community, there’s an opportunity for people to go and bring back more and more of this message and experience. Because we do live in a place that we really can affect change. There’s so many intangible, tangible, and capital resources to put behind this, and to cast an even bigger vision of what we can do.

Visit for events and news on upcoming talks from Rogers and Jordan

Get Involved this Earth Day 

Lend a hand in helping our local environment with an Earth Day Beach Clean Up at the Rosewood Miramar Beach this Friday, April 22, from 10 am – 12 pm. And the Community Environmental Council will be hosting its Santa Barbara Earth Day Celebration at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday, April 23. Join the CEC and other thought leaders for a full day of climate talks and eco-friendly fun like a Green Car and E-Bike Show or a Recycled Fashion Show. Visit sbearth for more information and a full schedule of events.  


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