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.
“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.*
To the Brink is now available for Kindle, iPad, Nook and Kobo. If you can’t find a link for your country or device listed below, cut and paste the book’s ISBN into your browser: 9780984915552. Happy e-reading!
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.
A year ago it was finished – or so I thought. I remember taking one last look at the manuscript before sending it off and realizing it needed another pass. Twelve months on, I have a physical copy in my hand.
To the Brink will be officially launched the end of next week.
Of course, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Entering Egypt illegally was still a serious enough offence to get me slung out of the country, but at least the paperwork miraculously catching up to me staved off the grim possibility of rotting away in an Egyptian cell. And with the arrival of the fax, Major Hassan was a changed man—perhaps because his own neck was also off the block. Gone was the icy demeanour. He began laughing and joking, asking me about my family, and telling me about his:
“Eef you come Cairo, ees my mobile number. You meet my wife and cheeldren!”
Part four of a five-part excerpt taken from To the Brink, the concluding volume of my circumnavigation trilogy, published August of this year. Read part one,two, and three.
It was time to come clean about my intent to cross the border illegally. I explained about the expedition, and my plan to kayak Lake Nasser at night. At the end of the confession, I motioned to the map case on the major’s desk, and said, “Can I show you something?”
I pulled out a laminated letter and offered it to him. Glancing at the letterhead, Major Hassan grunted, “Ah, the UNESCO.” Written in 1994 by the then Director General, Frederico Mayor, the letter appealed for people, organizations, and governments to assist the expedition on its way around the world. This was my ace in the hole, the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card. UNESCO had been instrumental in saving two temples built in thirteenth century BCE by Ramses II, relocating them stone by stone to Abu Simbel, before the Nile was flooded to form Lake Nasser.
“But dis name.” The major pointed to the first paragraph. “Pe-dal-for-the-Pla-net. Is not the name you say.”
This was true. I’d given name Expedition 360. “But I can explain,” I pleaded. “You see, we changed the name of the expedition in 1999—”
The second of a three-part excerpt (read part one here) from To the Brink, published early 2015, in which the Expedition 360 team encounter sea snakes and black magic on a remote island off the north coast of Flores, Indonesia:
A third snake suddenly appeared. I grabbed the video camera and began filming. “What is going on?” I said. Snakes gave me the same heebie-jeebies as spiders. “Why all these snakes?”
It didn’t make sense. At the first sight of a human, virtually every wild animal I’d ever come across had turned tail and scarpered, millennia of extermination rendering them wary of engaging Homo sapiens. So why were these snakes taking such an interest in us?
It’s a variation of the big “Why” question adventurers are always asked in media interviews. Why ride a bicycle to Timbuktu? Why be the two thousandth person to summit Mount Everest? Why row a bathtub to the North Pole?