49 minutes | Apr 5, 2021

Chuck Bergman and Susan Mann: A Story of Penguins, Hope, and Resilience

Visit Fertile Ground Communications on Patreon and find out how you can support my work.I’ve turned away several white guys on my podcast. When I started this podcast, I wanted to invite people who do not get a platform to share their stories. I’ve interviewed 50+ people, including 38 women, 24 people of color, 12 immigrants, 12 who identify as LBGTQIA+, and only 7 men. Dr. Chuck Bergman is the first white man I have interviewed, along with his wife Susan. When I was a 20-year-old junior at PLU, he inspired me to become a writer and taught me an important lesson about resilience. Chuck has won several awards and published 5 books and 150 articles in prominent magazines. He has led PLU student tours to Ecuador, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Tanzania, and Uganda, and six tours to Antarctica.Susan is a professional coach and leadership consultant who has worked with Dr. Brené Brown and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She has researched and written about resilience in the workplace and in life.Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All is the story of their effort to see each of the world's 18 species of penguins in the wild. It is a story of overcoming challenges and health issues. They believe penguins are creatures of hope and resilience.Penguins also offer the therapeutic effects of laughter. “You can't watch them without laughing. There's just something about being in their company that is really gratifying and restorative…they will definitely make you laugh.”Chuck recounted an intimate encounter with a King Penguin on South Georgia Island. He got down on his stomach to take a photo, and a penguin started pecking at his boots and biting his pants. He looked him in the face and made a loud, hoarse call. Each penguin has its own call, and children recognize their parents through their calls. “When the penguin does that call, it's saying, ‘this is who I am’ and asking who are you. Your job is to answer. That really put me on notice. Who am I, really? And who am I in relationship to all these penguins in the earth that we love?”On Susan and Chuck’s 10th wedding anniversary, they were volunteering to study and conserve African Penguins on Robben Island in South Africa. Susan was holding a penguin chick, and she realized it was their tenth species of penguin. Chuck noted it was their 10th anniversary and they had a “10 for 10” record. “That's when we decided to go for all 18.”Susan recounted one of the grueling stories in the book involving a life-or-death river crossing in New Zealand. Another memorable story involves their journey to see Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. Chuck almost missed his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Listen to the podcast or read the book to hear these stories.“The big threat for climate change for penguins is warming oceans…the cold water current is shifting 200 miles to the south…the penguins have to swim farther to get food for their babies, and it makes it harder for them to catch fish and to get it back to their babies…their babies are malnourished so it's harder for young penguins to grow to adulthood.”Susan survived Stage 3 breast cancer, and Chuck revealed in the book he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. When Chuck got diagnosed, he describes it as a sobering moment. “All of us are only one doctor's visit away from our mortality… penguins live in such daunting circumstances and can be such delightful creatures…it just became a model for me.”Chuck views their penguin quest as a spiritual journey.  “I began thinking of it as a pilgrimage…for me this became a deepening interest in seeing more deeply into the mystery of things.Listen to the podcast to hear their memories of low and high points of their quest.
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