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Cyclist on global ride for the environment

Updated: 2009-06-29 08:20
By Yu Tianyu (China Daily)

Cyclist on global ride for the environment

With deep, bright eyes, bronze skin, curly dark brown hair and several ear-piercings, Kim Paul Nguyen looks like few of his environmental contemporaries.

Yet the 28-year-old Australian has been doing something beyond hanging out in nightclubs - something for the planet.

Nguyen launched a campaign he calls "Ride Planet Earth" in August last year to raise public awareness about the impact of climate change and to promote sustainable solutions through an epic bicycle journey across the world from Brisbane, Australia to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Nguyen aims to arrive in Copenhagen on December 6, just one day before this year's crucial UN Climate Change Conference is set to begin.

"Not only political leaders, but also we ordinary people all hope an international deal will be inked to jointly combat the dangers of global warming," Nguyen said in an exclusive interview with China Business Weekly in late May after he cycled 7,750 km to Beijing.

"If an agreement is not made that secures the necessary reductions in carbon emissions and the means to do so, the consequences for the planet will be devastating," he said.

"My campaign is designed to demonstrate the capacity and willingness of ordinary people to take action to stop climate change and urge and encourage government negotiators to do the same," he added.

He cycled through northern Australia, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos before reaching China.

The first Chinese province he rode through was Yunnan, one of China's most popular tourism regions due to its scenic landscape.

"In Yunnan, I saw many residents are using solar power for heating or cooking and in countryside. A lot of biogas is used," he said, "And also in Beijing, people are trying to develop sustainable ways of development, like constructing energy-efficient buildings."

"But many rural communities in China face severe water shortages, as I saw. These impacts will only worsen if as a global society we cannot reduce global warming," he said.

"Rural residents realize the environment has changed very dramatically, not only in China, but also many other places I have been," he added.

"The evidence is clear that climate change is having an impact. Indigenous communities in remote Australia are highly vulnerable to extreme weather. Heat increases and changes in the timing of the monsoon in East Timor, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand have impacted crop yields in the past three years, making many communities reliant on foreign food aid," he said. "Rising sea levels will soon affect many of the smaller islands in Indonesia and the South Pacific."

"Some of areas look not very dry to me, but farmers know the changes and impacts on their crops," he said. "Sometimes climate change happens inconspicuously, but then it is too late to take action when it becomes very obvious."

Nguyen, a qualified social worker, has been working with vulnerable children for eight years.

He has traveled in Asia, South America and other regions where people rely on their environment completely. When there is not enough rain or too much rain, they will have few crops or even nothing.

"Because of climate change, all children are going to be at risk," he said.

"You should know that when you live a very carefree life and consume a lot of energy, climate change might not have impacts on you, but those people who feel it most already live in terrible poverty.

So Nguyen is challenging others to start making some lifestyle changes that will help save the planet.

"You can join the Ride Planet Earth Challenge and ensure at least 25 km of your weekly travel is environmentally friendly. This is not only vital to address climate change but will also improve your health, your local environment and save you money, "he said.

The journey actually is drawing a picture of global warming for Nguyen, and he is trying to promote it across the world using the Internet.

Modern communication tools have helped him garner support from local residents, environmental experts, the media and other organizations.

Nguyen is currently cycling in Mongolia. "The next few weeks will be hard and lonely and across landscapes few are able to witness," he wrote on his blog. "I am sure this will test me even further. But I am amazed and inspired by the efforts that I see around me, people fighting so hard to preserve our planet and climate, people supporting this project to the extent they have."

He will next roll toward Russia and Kazakhstan. "After that, I need to somehow get to Iran, then Turkey and then it'll be straight across to Europe," he said.

(China Daily 06/29/2009 page3)

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