With Pole to Paris, cycling halfway across the world isn’t the way most people go about making a point – but when it’s a point as important as this one, you’ve got to make an impact.
In December this year, the UN will meet at the 21st Congress of the Parties (COP21) in Paris to negotiate a climate deal – the outcome of which will dictate how the world’s governments must respond to climate change.
Despite the importance of this meeting, many people are unaware it is even happening. So, in an effort to boost public awareness and send a message to global leaders, Dr. Daniel Price has made a pledge to cycle from Pole (Antarctica) to Paris.
He took some time off the road to talk about his experience so far.
I’m a 27-year-old London-born adventurer. I grew up in West London, I rode the 607 bus to Acton High School, and spent holidays sailing with my father around the British Coast. This is where my journey started.
I was captivated by the sea – both for its wonders and its dangers. After briefly considering careers in either music or the military, I moved to West Wales where I soon found myself at an open day at Cardiff University. I sat in on a few talks at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and quickly realised that this is what I wanted to be doing.
Three years later, I completed a BSc in Marine Geography which sparked my other passion – furthering our understanding of our home – Earth. I knew my studies weren’t over yet, so I moved to New Zealand in 2010 to start my PhD at the University of Canterbury’s ‘Gateway Antarctica’.
It didn’t take long to fall in love with New Zealand. I met the most awe-inspiring people, ran through its hills, climbed its peaks and set out on a path that would only further my appreciation of our place on Earth.
I undertook two fieldwork campaigns in Antarctica for my research, based out of New Zealand’s Scott Base. We were looking to improve the ability of satellites to monitor the thickness of the Antarctic sea ice cover – a vast expanse of ice that grows every year in the Southern Ocean.
Even since completing my PhD, the Antarctic holds a special place in my heart, and my research continues. I’m concerned by the rate at which some of the continent’s giant ice sheets are moving off into the ocean, which will eventually raise global sea levels.
‘Pole to Paris’ is a project that was born out of frustration at the perceived lack of concern around climate change. I think the problem is that people just don’t understand it, while others that do are overwhelmed by the size of the problem. With every passing year, we continue on this wholly unsustainable path.
We need to realise that climate change IS a problem. People are causing it, people are ignoring it, and people will suffer because of it. However, people can also solve it. The future is up to us. We literally get to choose how much this will affect us.
In Paris this year, the most important meeting in human history will take place, and yet I realised that nobody knew about it – not even my friends or family. I teamed up with my friend and fellow climate change researcher Erlend Knudsen, and we decided that we wanted to take people on a journey – literally. Erlend would start at one pole – the Arctic, and I would start at the Southern Pole – the Antarctic. He would run, and I would bike, eventually meeting each other in Paris ahead of the COP21.
It might seem like an extreme way to make a point – but climate change is an extreme issue, and we hope to take the world on this journey with us, planting these issues in peoples’ minds, putting the stories out there, and ensuring that everyone understands the significance of what we are facing.
So far, Pole to Paris have made it through Australia and Indonesia, and the response has just been huge. Thanks to help from our partners United Nations Development Program and Bike to Work Indonesia, we were able to cycle with and present to the top level government of Indonesia in Jakarta – a surreal experience. The response from the Indonesian public has been incredible – with support from all directions. We really appreciate it and this is exactly what we set out to achieve, getting the people behind a message directed at our leaders in Paris, that the time to act is now.
Indonesia plays a key role in the climate negotiations in Paris, it is the middle man between developing and developed countries and could spur new progress by showing leadership. Although it faces significant challenges itself, the time for leadership has never been needed more.
We know climate change is a bit of a weird topic at the dinner table, but we encourage people to get involved and spread the word. One way you can help is by joining the Pole to Paris #climatekilometre campaign which simply asks people to do something over one kilometer.
As we continue on our journey, we hope more people will join us – whether on social media, on the road, or by sharing our story with their friends and family. We can do something about climate change, and this year is the year to start.
If our leaders fail us in Paris we have no chance of averting dangerous interference with the climate system and will set in stone commitment to a very difficult future. But we need to turn up the heat (no pun intended) on our leaders. They need to feel the urgency of the situation from the people they represent.