Magical, Beautiful, Wonderful World / Post by Erica Wills of Polar Bears International
Hello to the explore.org community! My name is Erica Wills, and I am an Arctic Ambassador with Polar Bears International (PBI). I’m also a junior at Western Oregon University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with three focus areas: environmental studies, communication studies, and political science.
I first fell in love with the great white bears of the North in October of 2008, when I was selected by the Oregon Zoo to attend PBI’s Teen Leadership Camp. Along with 15 other teens from Canada and the United States (including Katie Billing, whom you met on Monday), I had the incredible opportunity to observe polar bears in their natural (yet melting) habitat in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. For eight days, I learned about polar bears, the effects of climate change on their icy home, and how important an individual’s actions are in making a difference. It is thanks to mine and Katie’s work with PBI that we’ve been offered this fellowship with explore.org, and we couldn’t be more honored or excited to be working with them in the months to come!
I came home from Churchill forever and profoundly changed; it sounds cliché, but a cliché has to be true occasionally. To stand at the top of the world under thousands of stars and a shimmering curtain of emerald, crimson, and violet Northern Lights, with a wild polar bear sleeping only feet away — an experience like that changes a person. In that moment, I felt quite small and incredibly strong at the same time: small when compared to the vastness of the universe, but strong in the knowledge that I am able to help protect our little corner of it.
It’s been four years and fifteen days since I returned home from leadership camp; now, in just one day — one! — I (along with Katie and the explore.org team) will be going back to the world I have so deeply fallen in love with! My happiness can barely be contained at the prospect of spending a week in Churchill once more, and I’m eager to see how it has changed in the past four years.
Polar Bears International has given me so much: a passion, a purpose, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. All I want is to spend the rest of my life inspiring and empowering individuals like yourself to stand up and make a difference for polar bears, the Arctic, and our environment as a whole. I know that sounds big and scary and impossible, but it’s not. And that’s the one fantastic thing about the not-so-fantastic problem of climate change: each and every one of us has the power to solve the problem!
My bags are packed, my camera batteries are charged, and I’m itching to pull on my parka and lace up my boots. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing from the tundra! Until then, always remember: you have the opportunity to create positive or negative change with the choices you make on a daily basis. Every day, in some small way, you can make a difference! With each person doing their part, the world will always have polar bears and their magical, beautiful, wonderful Arctic world.