Thirteen years ago, pedal boat Moksha and I arrived back at Greenwich after completing the first human-powered circumnavigation of the planet – without using fossil fuels. A week ago, following an extensive refit, Moksha and I set off on a new journey, this time with actress, animal rescuer, and first-time adventurer Tammie Stevens, who also happens to be my wife.
As a proof of concept for #GB360 (postponed until next year), the aim over the next seven weeks is to complete a 750 mile, zero carbon trip around Wales via river, canal, and ocean, documenting examples of sustainable living along the way. In partnership with Squire Studio and director producer Astrid Edwards, we’ll be exploring how coastal communities on the frontline of climate change are transitioning to the UK’s net zero carbon targets for 2050.
There is, however, one slight problem. Tammie can barely swim and is terrified of water.
“We live in a disposable society. It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them. We even give it a name – we call it recycling.”―NEIL LABUTE
One of the biggest obstacles to global sustainability is the rapid extraction of raw materials to produce the stuff we consume (and ultimately throw away in a traditional linear economy).
A few innovators are beginning to design goods with a circular lifecycle, meaning the items can either be disassembled at the end of their service life and returned to the Earth or the constituent materials be endlessly recycled and made into other products. However, we’re still decades away from such products being the norm. Continue reading →
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”―JOHN F KENNEDY
If current trends continue, private car ownership worldwide will triple to 2 billion vehicles by 2050, increasing road emissions by 80%.
As it is, transport is responsible for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, pumping 8.07 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2015—cars being the worst offenders. To prevent the Earth’s climate warming beyond 2°C, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that global CO2 emissions must be cut by at least 50% by 2050.
With a business-as-usual mind-set, there’s little hope of this happening. Continue reading →
“We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.”―JIMMY CARTER
Most of our household electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels—gas and coal accounts for 60% of total UK usage, for example. The typical North American uses 4,629 kWh of electricity each year, six times the global average of 731 kWh. Europeans use around 1,996 kWh.To become part of the solution to a sustainable energy future, we each need to take a look at where our electricity comes from, how much we use, and decide what to do differently. Continue reading →
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”―Jacques Yves Cousteau
Those of us living in affluent countries discard an average of 4.3 pounds of waste a day, enough to fill a 3,100-mile-long column of refuse trucks bumper-to-bumper from New York to San Francisco.* This contributes to a global annual total of three trillion tonnes, the vast majority of which either ends up in methane-emitting landfills or is burnt, producing toxic chemicals known as dioxins. Two thirds of our waste is organic (mainly food, a quarter of which is never eaten), and a third of it paper and plastic.But if I’m not personally affected by any of these things, you may say, why should I care?
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ―Albert Einstein
The world’s growing appetite for meat and dairy products is now the leading driver of biodiversity loss and a major contributor to climate change and pollution. An average of 22.6kg of CO2 is emitted to produce just 1kg of beef, compared with 0.9kg of CO2 for the same amount of lentils. This and the release of methane and nitrous oxide has made the livestock sector one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases: 18% of the global total, more than all cars, trains, planes and ships combined.*
One pressing issue I’ll be exploring on the Micro Earths expeditions is water security.
Water security is one of the biggest challenges for global sustainability as aquifers continue to be over pumped, rivers dry up, and wetlands disappear to development.
The demand for water has been growing at twice the rate of population increase over the last 100 years, a rate that is set to accelerate in the next decade by 50% in developing countries and 18% in developed countries. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in areas of absolute water scarcity and population growth alone will account for the consumption of 70% of all available fresh water.
Clearly, we cannot continue down this unsustainable path.
Following completion of The Expedition trilogy, I thought you might be interested to know how the human-powered circumnavigation segues into the next project: Micro Earths.
Throughout the journey I was dogged by a single burning question, one I feel we all have a moral duty to try and answer for the sake of future generations: How do you live your life so you’re part of the solution to a sustainable future, not part of the problem?