Financial adviser Keith Sauls is literally willing to go to the South Pole to help convince the future generation of investors of his street cred.
Sauls, who turned 50 in November, will leave for Chile on Dec. 27. Then on Jan. 4, he'll board a Russian cargo plane to Antarctica to join Robert Swan, the first man to reach both poles on foot, his son, Barney Swan, and the rest of the “ClimateForce: Antarctica” team to hike their final 60 or so miles to the South Pole.
In exchange for the pleasures of cross-country skiing and camping in temperatures of 25-below zero and enduring fierce winds for a week, Sauls is paying about $80,000 to participate in the adventure (not including about $10,000 for equipment) and therefore helping to pay for the expedition.
The Swans embarked on the 600-mile adventure, known as the South Pole Energy Challenge, in November as the first attempt to reach a pole using solely renewable energy, namely solar energy and a biofuel.
Their primary goal is to challenge and inspire the world “to make measurable changes in how it uses energy in businesses, communities and lifestyles.”
Long before Sauls met Swan in 2015, Sauls was an adventurer, having climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2006, 2012 and 2014.
But Sauls — who is managing partner of Exeter Venture Group and AppleGold Partners, serves on the College of Charleston Foundation board and “typically votes Republican" — is not your typical supporter of renewable energy.
After College of Charleston students lobbied the school’s foundation to divest from fossil fuel companies, he realized that future investors, notably the Millennial generation, were unlikely to accept the status quo of polluting energy sources.
Sauls knew evolving would be in the best interests of both the planet and portfolios.
“Climate change and sea level rise is coming,” said Sauls. “And they (Milliennials) also are the ones that will inherit $15 trillion over the next 30 years. It’s amazing to me that my friends in the investment businesses who still want to fight these changes instead of getting ahead of it and creating investment products that meet their demands.”
Sauls said he hopes his experience at the South Pole will help bridge the gap between "the 75-year-old who doesn't believe in climate change or sea level rise and the Millennial citing climate talking points."
His approach began in the summer of 2015 when Sauls went to hear Swan talk.
"Rob (Swan) likes to tell people I was a (climate) denier. I don’t think I was a denier, but it wasn’t something I thought about until I went down there," said Sauls.
Since Swan reached the South Pole in 1984 and the North Pole in 1989, he has witnessed the drastic changes caused by global warming on his return trips and wanted to others to witness them, too.
By taking people, especially students, to the South Pole, the 62-year-old hopes to inspire them to protect Antarctica when an international moratorium on mining there expires in 2041. Swan’s website is www.2041.com.
Saul’s trip in January will actually be his third adventure with Swan in Antarctica. In March, they went for a trip to test the solar technology and biofuel, which was created by Shell Oil out of organic materials, for the coming trip.
The solar element will be used to melt ice for drinking water as the team hikes toward the pole, while the biofuel will be used for cooking meals.
Sauls has prepared physically for the trip with specific training exercises, including hiking on the beach with a weighted sled attached to his torso. His long treks on the Isle of Palms have drawn stares from strangers and barks from dogs.
Contrary to many physically-demanding events, though, Sauls has been urged to gain about 15 pounds because of the calories he is expected to burn on the trip. “They estimate that you’ll burn 10,000 calories a day, but can probably eat only about 6,000 (a day),” he said.
The trip also requires restraint: If any team member goes too fast, others can face danger.
“You have to be careful to avoid sweating because you can get frostbite. The scariest part, too, is that you’ll never feel it," Sauls said. "It’s not painful, so you don’t know it’s happening and it can happen pretty quickly.”