The Change Mak­ers

Asian Geographic - - Climate Change Heroes - Text Alex Camp­bell In Shack­le­ton’s Footst eps

Tim Jarvis re­calls get­ting lost in the bush in Malaysia at the age of 12, and find­ing his way home by walk­ing east to­wards the coast. “I al­ways car­ried a com­pass with me. I re­mem­ber find­ing my way through a sec­tion of jun­gle in Jo­hor, and it gave me a real sense of sat­is­fac­tion hav­ing done that. That feel­ing of re­source­ful­ness that you can ne­go­ti­ate the out­doors with a bit of skill and self-re­liance re­ally stuck with me.”

Jarvis de­scribes his ex­pe­di­tions as be­ing an ex­ten­sion of this in­quis­i­tive­ness, and at­tributes his en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism to a love of the out­doors, and the in­creas­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that we need to pro­tect it. This led him to study en­vi­ron­men­tal science and en­vi­ron­men­tal law. “I now find that my ex­pe­di­tions, and the books and films I do, give me a won­der­ful ve­hi­cle to com­mu­ni­cate en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism to peo­ple, when they might oth­er­wise not lis­ten,” he says.

Ex­plorer

Jarvis con­ducted his first ma­jor ex­pe­di­tion in 1996, walk­ing 500 kilo­me­tres across the ice sheet of Spits­ber­gen in the Nor­we­gian Arc­tic, un­sup­ported. The early 1990s was in the in­fancy of the GPS, so he nav­i­gated with paper maps and com­passes. “Po­lar bears were stalk­ing us, so I had to learn to use a gun, and nav­i­gate very ac­cu­rately. There’s not much mar­gin for er­ror,” he shares.

Three years later, he was joined by fel­low ad­ven­turer Peter Treseder, com­plet­ing the fastest un­sup­ported jour­ney to the South Pole, cov­er­ing 1,580 kilo­me­tres in 47 days.

He then com­pleted an un­sup­ported cross­ing of the Great Vic­to­ria Desert in 2001, walk­ing 1,100 kilo­me­tres. The next year he set off for the North Pole, cross­ing 400 kilo­me­tres of frozen Arc­tic ocean.

In 2007, he recre­ated Aus­tralian ex­plorer Sir Dou­glas Maw­son’s jour­ney, cov­er­ing hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres across the Antarc­tic. In 2013, he re­con­structed Sir Ernest Shack­le­ton’s iconic Antarc­tic sur­vival jour­ney of 1916, sail­ing 1,200 kilo­me­tres across the South­ern Ocean in a tiny boat, us­ing a chronome­ter for nav­i­ga­tion and wear­ing rudi­men­tary cloth­ing sim­i­lar to what Shack­le­ton wore a cen­tury ago.

His cur­rent project, 25zero, in­volves climb­ing all 25 glacier moun­tains at the equa­tor, with the aim of rais­ing aware­ness of the ur­gent ac­tion needed to mit­i­gate cli­mate change. “The sheer size of the po­lar re­gions is too vast to show the ex­tent of cli­mate change. Trop­i­cal glaciers are far eas­ier to show,” he ex­plains.

That's not to say Jarvis hasn't seen huge change in the po­lar re­gions. “The jour­ney to the North Pole is across the frozen skin of ice on the sur­face of the Arc­tic ocean. You can’t do that in the sum­mer any­more, be­cause it’s not there. The science tells us that by 2037, we will be ice-free in the Arc­tic in the sum­mer. I have seen the changes to sup­port that,” he says.

Jarvis ex­plains that the re­duc­tions in green­house gas emis­sions pledged by the sig­na­to­ries to the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (INDCS) don’t get us to 1.5oc, let alone 2oc; they get us to around 3oc of ad­di­tional warm­ing: “This is a step in the right direc­tion, but it’s not enough.”

Still, Jarvis doesn’t har­bour a de­featist at­ti­tude. “It’s up to all of us to step up and make our con­tri­bu­tion. Change – when we want to make it – can come very quickly.” www.tim­jarvis.org and www.25zero.com

1998, Ben Le­comte be­came the first man to swim across the At­lantic with­out any flota­tion de­vices. Af­ter he fin­ished, he said “never again”. But in spring next year, he will at­tempt to swim 8,800 kilo­me­tres from Tokyo to San Fran­cisco. What has changed?

“I think when you go through chal­lenges with dif­fi­culty and pain, you think ‘never again’! But once you have had some time to dis­tance your­self from it, you re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing about the ex­pe­ri­ence that was re­ward­ing,” he shares.

His swim across the At­lantic aimed to raise can­cer aware­ness, fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther. The mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the Pa­cific swim is to bring at­ten­tion to the hu­man im­pact on the environmen­t. “The swim is a way to bring at­ten­tion to an im­por­tant is­sue – for peo­ple to un­der­stand that it’s im­por­tant what we do on land, as that has a big in­flu­ence on our oceans,” he says. “Many peo­ple don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on. They have no idea about mi­croplas­tic and its ef­fect on fish.”

“The Long­est Swim” will take him through the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch – a vast area of float­ing waste – with sup­port from their ves­sel, Dis­cov­erer. Le­comte and his crew will as­sist eight re­search projects, one of which looks at how the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch af­fects ocean life. They will also be mea­sur­ing lev­els of con­tam­i­nants from the Fukushima dis­as­ter, and record­ing ph lev­els to ex­am­ine how hu­man ac­tiv­ity is chang­ing the prop­er­ties of the Pa­cific. They have in­volved NGOS like the Cli­mate Group and the Ocean Project to “help us en­gage peo­ple to use less plas­tic and re­cy­cle”.

Le­comte will use the lat­est tech­nol­ogy dur­ing the swim: He will be able to com­mu­ni­cate with the Dis­cov­erer through a wa­ter­proof mi­cro­phone and ear­piece. This al­lows him to take calls and give in­ter­views while he swims. He will also wear a bracelet that cre­ates a mag­netic field to keep sharks at bay.

That’s not to say that the sharks will be com­pletely ab­sent. Dur­ing his At­lantic swim, one shark fol­lowed him for five days. “When I climbed out of the wa­ter, I could see that same fin cir­cling the boat,” he re­calls.

There’s still a lot of work to do be­fore the Dis­cov­erer gets to Tokyo. “I’m like a tiger in a cage!” laughs Le­comte, who trains for three hours a day, run­ning, cy­cling, but do­ing very lit­tle swim­ming, to keep it “fresh”.

“I know that we are not go­ing to change the world, but I want to do some­thing to make a pos­i­tive im­pact,” he says humbly.

All the peo­ple on­board the Dis­cov­erer are vol­un­teers, so “The Long­est Swim” con­tin­ues to look for sup­port. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.th­e­longestswi­m.com.

In “I know that we are not go­ing to change the world, but I want to do some­thing to make a pos­i­tive im­pact”

Mi­chon be­gan div­ing at age 11, en­cour­aged by Cousteau doc­u­men­taries. “I ad­mired these men who had dis­cov­ered an­other uni­verse. It fas­ci­nated me,” he says.

In 2010, Mi­chon took part in a 45-day po­lar ex­pe­di­tion, with the aim of mak­ing a film. His mes­sage is, un­doubt­edly, an en­vi­ron­men­tal one. “Arc­tic ice is melt­ing faster and faster, and there will be no ice left in the sum­mer in about 20 years’ time,” shares Mi­chon. “Sure, it will re-form in the win­ter, but the un­der­wa­ter world that we en­coun­tered over there will never be the same again. The ice that we en­coun­tered mak­ing the film went down to more than 30 me­tres, and formed ut­terly unique land­scapes. But all this is doomed to dis­ap­pear.”

In 2012, he or­gan­ised a sec­ond ex­pe­di­tion, pad­dling 1,000 kilo­me­tres off the coast of Green­land with Vin­cent Ber­thet. The re­sult was the well-re­ceived film, Lepiège­blanc ( The­ice­trap). “These ex­pe­di­tions make it pos­si­ble to con­vey a mes­sage of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in a strong way,” he says. “I like to show what is beau­ti­ful, and show why it’s im­por­tant to pre­serve it.” His mes­sage is not alarmist, nor does it aim to in­spire guilt. “I am op­ti­mistic, but re­al­is­tic,” he says.

In 2018, Mi­chon will travel alone across the North­west Pas­sage, the sea route that con­nects the At­lantic and Pa­cific Oceans through the Cana­dian Arc­tic. “The 3,000 kilo­me­tre-long chan­nel is un­der­go­ing un­prece­dented change due to melt­ing ice. The re­sul­tant in­crease in mar­itime trans­port will in­crease pol­lu­tion,” he ex­plains. Mi­chon will meet with the Inuit to dis­cuss the changes due to melt­ing ice. “I want to tell the world what is hap­pen­ing here to­day, so that peo­ple can un­der­stand what is at stake in the world to­mor­row,” says Mi­chon.

Al­ban “Arc­tic ice is melt­ing faster and faster, and there will be no ice left in the sum­mer in about 20 years’ time”

Earthrace, led by Cap­tain Pete Bethune, broke the world cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion record for a speed­boat by al­most 14 days. But that’s not the most im­pres­sive part: They did it run­ning the ves­sel en­tirely on bio-diesel. While a com­pany of­fered Earthrace fund­ing of USD4 mil­lion, they were not too both­ered about the use of bio­fuel – a move that Bethune sees as a big mis­take. “The fact that we set a record cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the globe run­ning Earthrace on bio­fuel made from waste cook­ing oils… that’s a cool story! To set a record of go­ing round the globe on diesel – who cares? And in the process, we would have put tonnes of CO into the

2 at­mos­phere,” Bethune shares.

While trav­el­ling the world’s oceans, Bethune says he started to see the detri­men­tal ef­fects of over­fish­ing, and it got un­der his skin. “One day, I saw this fish­ing boat, and be­hind it there was just car­nage. I re­mem­ber think­ing, I can’t just sit by and watch this kind of thing hap­pen. That was the day I de­cided to get in­volved in marine con­ser­va­tion.” This mo­ti­vated Bethune to found Earthrace Con­ser­va­tion.

While work­ing with Sea Shepherd in Antarc­tica, Bethune was part of a TV se­ries called Whale­wars. “That showed me the power that tele­vi­sion has in get­ting peo­ple to care about im­por­tant is­sues,” he adds.

Bethune de­cided to put to­gether a TV show, and use it to fund his con­ser­va­tion ef­forts. The re­sult was The­op­er­a­tives, a se­ries broad­cast in over 50 coun­tries that doc­u­ments the Earthrace team’s con­ser­va­tion mis­sions in anti-poach­ing and anti-wildlife traf­fick­ing, fish­eries en­force­ment, habi­tat de­struc­tion and an­i­mal wel­fare. The teams also train lo­cal wildlife pro­tec­tion units and NGOS in ef­fec­tive en­force­ment.

One of Bethune’s ma­jor wor­ries is over­pop­u­la­tion. Re­lated to this is the in­creas­ing pres­sure on fish­eries. “By 2048, un­less dras­tic mea­sures are taken, the pelagic species will be gone. Part of the prob­lem is linked to the fact that in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters, no one can re­ally go about en­forc­ing con­trols,” he ex­plains.

Bethune has been heav­ily evolved in anti-whal­ing – a mis­sion that landed him in a Ja­panese prison af­ter he boarded the Sho­nan­maru2 in 2010. While whal­ing has been re­duced by two-thirds, the Ja­panese con­tinue to whale in Antarc­tica. “The job of ac­tivists is to keep this in the pub­lic do­main,” says Bethune.

Bethune re­mains ac­tive in an­ti­whal­ing cam­paign­ing, but says that Earthrace now looks to tar­get less vis­i­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, such as pan­golin smug­gling and shark finning in Asia, and seal club­bing in Namibia – a prac­tice which is still le­gal in the coun­try, al­though Bethune is adamant that this will change. “As con­ser­va­tion­ists, there’s a temp­ta­tion to look at the short term, but we need to be prag­matic. For gov­ern­ments to change leg­is­la­tion, there needs to be grow­ing pub­lic pres­sure.” www.earth­race­con­ser­va­tion.org

Team “For coun­tries and gov­ern­ments to change leg­is­la­tion, there needs to be grow­ing pub­lic pres­sure”

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