Camille KündigEditor Sunday view
In the course of climate change, we humans have to prepare ourselves for tougher living conditions. Swiss-French adventurer Christian Clot wants to find out how we can deal with it. For his “Deep Climate” project, he and his team are traveling to three of the most extreme climate zones on earth and collecting data on the adaptability of our brain and body. He has just returned from the Amazonas park in French Guiana and draws his first conclusions in the SonntagsBlick.
Sunday view: Mr. Clot, you voluntarily spent 40 days in complete autonomy and in a humidity of almost 100 percent. Are you so worried about our survival or are you masochistic?
Christian Cloth: (Laughs) The living conditions in the areas we travel to are difficult, but they are also some of the most beautiful places in the world. I often ask myself, “Why did I come here?” But then a rare bird flies over me, and I am grateful to be able to observe this nature and animal diversity. My primary concern is to find solutions for the changes that are ahead of us.
The climate change.
In Marseille, summer temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius are expected from the middle of the century. Nobody knows how this will affect our bodies, our brains and our coexistence. We want to find out how we can best adapt to this future. We are interested in the mechanism in the brain that helps people deal with change.
Aren’t you too pessimistic? The fight against climate change is in full swing.
Of course, we must continue to do everything in our power to reduce pollution and CO₂ emissions and avoid the worst horror scenarios. But experts have been warning of what to expect since the 1950s. Even if we pull out all the ropes, profound change is upon us.
Let’s take a look into the crystal ball: How uncomfortable will it get?
At temperatures and extremely high humidity like in the jungle of French Guiana, clothes and sleeping bags get soaking wet. This promotes mycoses, fungal diseases and pimples. It was difficult for us to breathe, our lungs didn’t cooperate. Many participants showed symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and blood clots, or were particularly irritable.
You canoe on your expeditions, pull carts through the desert. How do you draw conclusions from this?
We record vital functions of all subjects. Your body temperature, heartbeat, motor activity. The participants have to do daily written exercises and fill out questionnaires about their moral condition. To study group dynamics, there are devices that show who spends how much time with whom. Before the trip and on return we all had to trott for blood tests and MRI. Now researchers – including from the University of Geneva – will analyze the data.
In your expedition team there are no researchers, but a communication officer and a jewelry seller – mere mortals between the ages of 25 and 52. Why?
It is important that the group comes as close as possible to the reality of society. Tests are often conducted by experts in the specific field. But everyone will be affected by climate change.
How did the group deal with the new circumstances?
At first she tried to go on living as before. We tried not to walk through the water, we took shelter when it rained. At some point we accepted the situation. For some it took two or three days. Others need more time to realize that they cannot change the situation and have to organize themselves accordingly.
Who did the best?
Those subjects who were the quickest to accept and build on the new reality, and creative people with strong positive imagination. But in principle, unfortunately, it is clear that we are not prepared for what awaits us. It is therefore essential that we teach change to the new generation.
What do you mean?
In Finland, exercises on cognitive variability are part of the curriculum. The students learn to accept new conditions, throw long-prepared plans overboard and develop new, creative ideas. With us, a lot revolves around learning by heart, little about sensory perception. In view of the challenges of climate change, this is devastating and we urgently need to rethink our school system.
What actually adapts better: the brain or the body?
Our brain develops as needed and destroys functions that are no longer necessary. At any point in life, it can adapt to new circumstances within 30 days.
This sentence could have come from a psychology guide…
But be careful: if we don’t feed it, it will go on strike. If we want to be able to cope with changes, we have to keep our brains active. Means: Learn new things, stay curious, listen to music! Art stimulates our brain to become creative itself.
Was there a fight on the mission?
Inevitably in a group there are people with whom you get along better than with others. Conflicts are part of it. But among the participants were people who had never walked in a forest before. Alone they would not have made it three days in the jungle. This shows that if we all pull together when it matters most, we can achieve great things.
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