Cycling halfway round the world to combat climate change


What are you doing to fight climate change? That’s what Australian environmentalist and social worker Kim Nguyen wants ordinary people to ask themselves. For his part, he’s bicycling from Brisbane, Australia to Copenhagen, Denmark. 15 months into his journey, Kim arrived in Prague for a lap around Wenceslas Square and some meetings with the press to promote the idea that if he can cycle half-way round the world, certainly others can cycle to work.

If you really want to do something for climate change, you’re probably going to have to change your lifestyle somehow. 27-year-old Kim Nguyen wants to remind you of a simple tool with which to do that: the bicycle. To that end he began the Ride Planet Earth project, a 25,000 km trip across Asia and Europe ending at the UN Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Copenhagen on December 5.

“I hope that the government delegates there in Copenhagen will listen and support non-motorised transport as part of the solution to climate change.”

So far, Kim has succeeded in building enthusiasm, with hundreds of people accompanying him on bicycles for spans of several hours to several weeks. Another major aim in “riding the planet” though has been to collect first-hand stories of climate change to present in Copenhagen. There he hopes to tell of aboriginals in northern Australia dealing with increased flooding and tropical storms and farmers in south-east Asia coping with food shortages as changing rain patterns play havoc with their harvests, among other things.

“Another example is Mongolia, where many of the people outside the cities, and even in the cities, live a lifestyle very similar to the one they were living 200 years ago or more, with the difference being that most of the tents, and most of the places where the Mongolian people live, now have a small solar panel to provide them with the electricity for a radio, or something like that. And it’s just astonishing to see that these people, who have one of the smallest carbon footprints of anybody, also taking the action that we should all be taking, in that they’re using renewable energy, but also are the people who are harshly effected by climate change when it’s not caused by them at all.”

And as a bit of added inspiration for Czechs who might consider pulling their bicycle out of the garage instead of their car, they should know that they have a wonderful country for a bicycle ride. Take it from a man who has ridden through about a dozen countries in the last year and a half:

“Actually the Czech Republic has easily been one of my favourite places to cycle. It was incredible to find this network of roads where you can pick so many different routes and so many small rural roads without much traffic; it’s seemed like every road is a bicycle path somehow.”

One of the aims of the Copenhagen conference is to create a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. By that time Kim Nguyen hopes that Ride Planet Earth will have helped bring together people from around the world for his next endeavour, a carbon-neutral travel project that will be “more large-scale”.