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Conversations with Canada's modern-day explorer

Conversations with Canada's modern-day explorer

Rita DeMontisMore from Rita DeMontis

You can call Dr. Mark Terry Canada’s original Renaissance man, and one of the country’s real-life modern-day explorers.

Described as a digital-media scholar, he is one of the friendliest people you could ever meet — kind, curious, highly spirited if a somewhat humble being — who has turned the dry, sage world of academia, particularly in the field of climate research, into one of wonder, colour and vibrant adventure.

And always with a huge smile on his face

There is a portrait of this Toronto native swimming in the brilliant yet brutally cold Antarctic waters while documenting climate change and, yes, cold notwithstanding, he has that huge smile on his face.

Terry’s career has included producer, director, writer, publicist, actor — and even stunt driver. He has spent many years either in front of a camera, or behind one. His 25-year-career as a journalist and filmmaker has earned him the astonishing distinction of having made a documentary film on every continent on Earth.

His love of science and nature superseded all his previous works, and saw him produce films of such profound value they made significant impacts on United Nations policy makers. (His new documentary film, The Changing Face of Iceland, is set to be released this fall, and represents the third in his trilogy of films examining the impacts of climate change in the polar regions. The other two being The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning and The Polar Explorer.)

An environmental studies instructor, documentarian and York University post-doctoral fellow, Terry is also an accomplished author, having recently published books addressing innovations in climate communications technologies, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. He recently received the 2020 Dean’s Award for excellence in teaching.

His attention to detail is staggering, as witnessed in his book, The Geo-Doc: Geomedia, Documentary Film, and Social Change, which looks at mobilizing the documentary film as a communication tool between filmmakers and policymakers.

His work with the UN and the world’s scientific community has seen him recognized on many fronts: He has been decorated with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for international humanitarian service; he has been presented with the Stefansson Medal by The Explorers Club for documenting climate research in the polar regions; the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television presented him the Gemini Humanitarian Award acknowledging a lifetime achievement of producing social issue documentary films, and he’s listed as one of Canada’s Top 100 greatest explorers by Canadian Geographic Magazine.

Not bad for a guy who played the role of the Alien Pilot in Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.

Just recently he gave a TED Talk — and now he’s celebrating his latest project, a book of poetry.

But just not any type of poetry. Terry, like everyone else on earth, found the current pandemic crisis life-altering, so he decided to offer his own personal observations about it through his Pandemic Poetry (Hollywood Canada Communications, 2020), a collection of poetic musings on life during the time of COVID-19. He applied all his experiences in a book vibrant with hope, joy and curiosity for the world during the global pandemic. It’s already reached best-seller status on

“I wrote this during my own isolation to share my observations, concerns and optimism with others who may be feeling despondent during this pandemic,” said Terry recently.

“I wanted readers to know they are not alone and that while these times may be troubling for many, they are also temporary and provide an opportunity for self-reflection as well.”

What was his motivation for the book?

“I saw stress, fear, and panic in many people and wanted to alleviate these feelings by providing a voice not often heard in times like this, a voice of hope. I believe poetry serves well in this regard as an accessible medium of expression to share common observations and experiences, but seen through a lens of optimism, encouragement, and compassion.”

What is the core messaging for the book?

“My academic specialty is communications. From the very early days of my career working in media to my current work developing communication theory and data delivery systems for the United Nations, the message of the book is essentially that ‘this, too, shall pass’ …

“While we live through a completely unfamiliar time for almost all of us, the uncertainty of our health and our economy breeds periods of high anxiety for most of us. We hear a lot of the bad news related to the coronavirus, so I wanted to employ my communications skills as an academic in a way that can reach many in a medium that is accessible and with a message that is comforting.”

What reaction has the book received so far?

“So far it has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. One Amazon reviewer wrote: ‘Dr. Terry wrote these words like he was reading my mind and could feel my thoughts.’ Knowing that you’re not alone in your unprecedented experiences and having those related feelings be acknowledged with hope and compassion seems to be quite comforting to the readers who have reached out to me.”

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