Businessman • Sweden
“The future of the planet is being played out in the Polar regions and it’s by looking in a new light that we’ll be able to preserve them”
Frederik Paulsen is the Chairman of Swiss pharmaceutical group Ferring. After studying chemistry at the University of Kiel, he joined Ferring in 1976, working his way up to become its Chairman in 1988. His passion for Polar exploration has taken him across the Polar Regions over the last ten years. His associations finance numerous organisations and programmes linked to the study and the protection of these fragile areas.
The appeal of the poles first affected me, somewhat paradoxically, on the Isle of Föhr, one of the North Frisian Islands that lie between Denmark and Germany. From the air, Föhr for me stands out in the same way the poles do when I look at a globe of the world and am immediately drawn to those two points at the top and bottom where all the meridian lines meet. Viewed in this way, these two symbolic places, the North and the South Poles, suggest a consistent positioning on the global sphere. And yet, the multiple facets of their existence – geomagnetic and geographic poles, magnetic poles and even inaccessible poles – represent, in reality, inconsistencies which I endeavour to better comprehend through personal exploration. These landmarks, regardless of how minimal their movement, constantly demand that we look at them again, with fresh eyes. The predicted disappearance of the summer pack ice and the doomsday pronouncements of scientists have given these far-away places a significance in our daily lives which is accompanied by a dose of anxiety. I like to wander among the tombs on my island of Föhr and read the names of the heroes who sprang from this island and who then left to sail northwards along the coast. It is important to me to recognise in the history of these places not only the heroes, but the common destiny of the men who lived in them – be it for a whaling season or a lifetime. If they are known to us, if we recognise them, read their tales, discover their lives and compare them to our own, we are somehow obliged to link our destinies. The appeal of the Poles, even if it has only been truly felt by a few, raises our awareness and enhances our shared history. Norway shows us through its name the ‘way’ to go (according to etymologists Norway means ‘the north way’): the northern coastal route that bears and binds in an incessant ebb and flow both our histories and our destinies. One woman, Mary Shelley, as if to warn us of humanity’s promethean future, had the audacity to incarnate a creature deprived of a name by its creator that ended its tragic existence at the North Pole, without progeny, history or destiny. Through my expeditions from South Georgia through to Siberia, through the work of the foundations I support, and through my publications, I endeavour to share with as many people as possible my passion for these regions. Today, it is the perception that the pack ice is melting which brings change and prompts new political initiatives. Along those lines traced on a map, new conflicts are arising which once again affect the common good. The future of the planet depends on the polar regions. By getting to know them better, we can better preserve them.
Fredrik Paulsen (October 2009)
© Le Cercle Polaire - October 2009 - All rights reserved