Biking to COP21 - Three Teams Travel 18,000 Miles for Climate Change
August 29, 2015.
That’s the number of times Simon and Kim will pedal their bikes on their way from Vietnam to Paris.
This herculean task will take them 9,000 miles, across 11 countries and through 20+ border checkpoints.
Any why, you ask?
Because they’re super committed to stopping human caused climate change.
And they’re not alone. As preparations get underway for the international Conference of Parties (COP21) meeting this November in Paris, three teams, starting from different locations around the world, are pulling out all the stops to get there - without using fossil fuels. Biking across multiple countries they're drawing attention to climate change, hearing stories of current impacts, and elevating the importance of reaching a strong multinational agreement to drive significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Bike For A Future
The first team, ‘Bike For A Future,’ headed out from Vietnam in January on their nine month, 9000 mile journey through 11 countries.
Simon Nelson, originally from Scotland, is a long time climate activist who has been working to stop climate change for 20 years, including chaining himself to power stations, attending protests and occupying offices of fossil fuel companies. After educating, lecturing and talking about climate change for so long he is frustrated by the lack of global progress - and extremely concerned the window of opportunity for taking action is closing fast.
He also has a love for biking and is dedicating this ride to his Dad who spent his life working to preserve the natural world and to whom he thanks for nurturing his own passion for nature.
Kim Ngan, a 27 year old Vietnamese writer with 4 published books has a passion for helping people find positive life contributions that link well being with stewardship for the natural world. She also loves adventures.
In addition to raising awareness, the trip is also raising money for Vietnamese sites which have been hit hard by recent severe weather events.
Simon and Kim are actively posting on social media and as of this blog post are located in Eastern Iran with 3,000 miles to go.
Morgan Curtis and Garrett Blad of the U.S. team "Climate Journey" started out on June 22 from Vermont, with stops planned in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium and the UK before arriving in France - a trip taking five months and covering 6000 miles.
Morgan, a London native and Dartmouth College graduate, conceived of the idea while teaching environmental studies to high school students in a small town in northern Maine. She has a deep love for the natural world and is called to act against what she calls "the injustice of continued fossil fuel extraction". She coordinated Alumni for Divest Dartmouth and is also the media lead for the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, which took her on a green bus tour to 33 colleges in the U.S.
Garret is a Notre Dame graduate and the founder of Fossil Free Notre Dame a campaign calling for divestment from fossil fuels. He has interned as a Fossil Free Fellow with 350.org and attended the People's Climate March in NYC with 400,000 activists in the fall of 2014. He has a passion for art and is deferring graduate studies to complete the ride using his skills to document the trip.
They intend to tell the stories of different communities and people they meet along the way who are working to make a difference. "People are the reason I ride for climate solutions," says Garrett, "since humans are both the cause and the solution."
The team is actively posting on social media and as of this post are in Stavanger, Norway.
Pole to Paris
A third team called 'Pole to Paris' is taking a uniquely different approach. As practicing polar scientists with both South and North Pole expertise, rather than journey together, they decided to divide the planet in half. Starting in Australia, Dan Price will be biking 'north' to Paris following a route through the southern hemisphere, and Erlend Knudsen will be running 'south' starting in Tromso, Norway. They began their trips in the Antarctic and Arctic circles, respectively.
Both Dan and Erland are in unique positions to comment on climate change. Dan just completed his Ph.D. working to improve the ability of satellites to monitor the thickness of Antarctic sea ice cover - and is steeped in the details of climate impacts in the poles. He grew up in West London and has a passion for the sea after growing up sailing with his father around the British coast. This led to undergraduate studies at Cardiff University in Marine Geography. Despite the magnitude of the climate challenge, he thinks it is a gift and opportunity to use our creativity and abilities to find solutions.
And he should know - he's biking a whopping 10,500 miles - to make this point on his way to Paris.
Erlend was raised in Sandefjord, a Norwegian town in the south of the country, and developed an early passion for the natural world on weekends and vacations with his family - hiking, skiing and being outdoors. Over time he got a bug for expeditions and his interests and journeys led to doctoral studies in climate dynamics with a specialty in Arctic sea ice. But despite his knowledge of science he felt powerless in meetings by personal attitudes that people had supremacy over nature and wildlife. He believes in stewardship and wants to live by personal example.
He certainly is making his point. Starting above the Arctic circle, his journey to Paris will take him 2000 miles - the equivalent of 76 marathons.
Inspiration for us all
Most of us don't have the time or desire to bike halfway round the world for the climate. Nor are we steeped in the nuances of climate negotiations and the critical details surrounding COP21.
But we 'get it' when we watch others drop everything to take on monumental achievements for causes which we hold fast. Surely, if they can brave wind, rain, trucks, heat and mountain passes – we can do our part too.
Let’s start by telling their stories.
As Daniel from the “Pole to Paris” team has said, “This is up to us. We literally get to choose. The climate will change, but by how much is entirely our choice.”
Teams - you have our gratitude!
Simon Nelson from the Bike For A Future team - somewhere in Kyrgyzstan
Want to Follow These Inpsiring Team? Links to social media and blogs for each follow!
Bike For a Future:
Pole to Pole: