The big issue
Climate change will undoubtedly be the greatest environmental threat humanity has ever faced. The effects of global warming can now be seen in regions all around the world and the unparalleled temperature rise is showing no signs of slowing. Last year marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million, a sober reminder that the state of our climate is unprecedented.
We are all aware that the polar ice caps are melting and that hotter temperatures are being recorded around the globe; however global warming is impacting millions of people in a number of different ways. I wanted to raise awareness of the effects that often escape media attention and get a first-hand perspective of the consequences of global warming from those directly affected. This, combined with a sense of infuriation towards New Zealand's inaction, sparked the idea for this project.
The big run
Initially it was decided that from 16 November to 16 December I would run 400km (just over 19 half marathons) in different countries all around the world that are already severely feeling the effects of global warming in different ways. Most days I would have been running the half marathon in the morning and travelling in the afternoon, with a couple of spare days set aside for long-haul travel. However four months into training, and about 6 weeks before this was due to begin, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my foot. Although I still aim to run as many legs as possible, especially the last route in New Zealand, it is increasingly unlikely that I will be able to complete the full distance on foot alone. Therefore the days that I cannot run, I will still cover the distance either by walking (or worst-case biking) the planned route.
The aim of the run is two-fold:
to illustrate the widespread and obscure effects occurring around the world where climate change is likely a contributing factor, such as tropical disease epidemics in Italy, melting permafrost in Alaska, shrinking lakes in Mexico and island erosion in Kiribati. In doing this I hope to encourage action at home, by raising awareness and support for the Zero Carbon Act (as explained below); and
to raise money towards climate change response, mitigation and / or adaptation measures in the South Pacific.
We (a good friend Rosa and I) will be writing a blog in each place that I run explaining the specific effects in the particular location. We will also be filming parts of the run and aiming to secure interviews with people directly affected. I have endeavoured to reduce the carbon emissions from this project by offsetting the emissions from the flights I will be taking. You can find out more about this here. I know that paying to offset emissions is not a permanent fix, however I hope that the stories that we are telling through this project will outweigh the carbon cost in this instance.
The big Act
Earlier this year Generation Zero (a youth-led climate organisation) released a blueprint for the Zero Carbon Act. If passed, the Act will provide a means of securing binding targets to reduce CO2 emissions in New Zealand and will force the government to put in place an adequate framework to ensure those targets are met. New Zealand's economy, to a large extent, relies on the clean green image that we outwardly project, however our history of soft targets and lack of long-term environmental strategy has put us behind our international partners with regards to emission reduction. As an island nation, we really need to start thinking seriously about the effects of climate change, in terms of what these effects will mean for us, as well as our pacific neighbours. I hope that this run will start to hammer home the seriousness of this cause and contribute (albeit in a small way) to the groundswell of public support that we will need to get the Zero Carbon Act passed in the strongest form possible, as well as providing funding to assist with adapting or responding to climate change in future.