Kim Nguyen is an Australian looking to make a change. In early 2008 he heard about the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference and decided to attend—and travel there in an environmentally friendly way. On August 10, 2008, he departed from Brisbane on a bicycle heading toward Copenhagen. He plans to arrive in the Danish city by December 6, 2009, the day of the Ride Planet Earth event he is organizing, and three days before the conference begins. The conference will largely determine what policies are in place when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.
So far, Nguyen has cycled more than 7,000 of the 25,000-kilometers route through mountains, deserts, volcanoes, and rainforests, resulting in two hospital visits, numerous broken bicycle parts, and general physical and mental strain.
He will be arriving in Chengdu on May 10 or 11 en route to Copenhagen. We asked him what the heck he thinks he's doing.
What is your background? Why does this issue compel you so strongly?
My professional background is in social work, specifically child protection. The same desire to make sure our children are safe that made me get into that work made me get into this. I think making sure our planet is safe for future generations is pretty much the most important thing we can do.
What specifically do you intend to do once you're at the conference in Copenhagen?
On the day I arrive I am organizing Ride Copenhagen, a cycle into the city to include hundreds of other cyclists. On the same day as Ride Copenhagen the Ride Planet Earth event will be happening all over the world. Ride Planet Earth is designed to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on the developing world and bring their messages to the delegates. That is what I am hoping to do. I hope that will help convince these government representatives that a safe climate for all is of the utmost importance.
What is the overreaching goal of making this journey? How will you measure your success in achieving this goal?
Part of the goal is to raise awareness about climate-change impacts on those least responsible for climate change but least able to deal with it. And of course to convince the negotiators to make an agreement that secures greenhouse gas emission reductions to safe levels and the means to do so.
But most importantly I hope that Ride Planet Earth can demonstrate that ordinary people have the capacity and willingness to address this issue, with or without government and business leadership in doing so.
What can the average citizen do to address the pressing issues of climate change?
Each time we act we need to know what the consequences will be on the environment around us. That way we can make choices to behave in ways that don't harm the environment and may even protect it. Using environmentally sustainable transport and travel is a good example. Cycling, walking, taking public transport instead of driving a car or a motor bike. When we use energy in our homes, when we buy a new product at the shop, we need to think about the environmental consequences and act accordingly. This we can do without relying on government and business to take the lead which they have yet to do.
What is Ride Planet Earth? How can Chengduers get involved?
On December 6 2009, the day before the UN climate-change negotiations begin, people are taking to the streets on their bicycles in a demonstration of the capacity of ordinary people to take action on climate change. There are events happening in Australia, East Timor, China, The Philippines, Tanzania, Angola, the UK, Denmark and the US amongst other countries. We would love to have Chengdu included but we need a coordinating person or organization. If anyone would like to assist or participate please e-mail me at kim [AT] rideplanetearth [DOT] org. Chengduers can keep up to date and join the Ride Planet Earth Challenge by visiting www.rideplanetearth.org [currently blocked in China] and The Ride Planet Earth Challenge on Facebook.
Why spend nearly a year and a half biking? Why not spend that time working with policymakers or environmental agencies?
It's something I can do. I don't have the background or personality to spend the time in an office working for or lobbying government. The cycle from Australia to Denmark is ... out of the ordinary. It's certainly easier to get media interest[ed in] this than writing a letter from Sydney. People who may not otherwise be interested in climate change or protecting the planet may be interested in this journey. I hope that if people can develop a better connection with the world around them and a better understanding of the lives of communities on the other side of the planet, they will be more motivated to help protect it all.
You have seven months to bike 15,000+ kilometers. How are you going to make it on time?
I can see now that I will not be able to cycle the entire distance in the time I have left. Therefore I will be taking some train trips to ensure I arrive on December 6. I would much prefer to cycle the entire way but if I can make it there without flying then I won't be compromising my principles too much. It's not so much that I believe my presence at the conference is the most important factor, but rather the event on December 6 is involving hundreds, maybe thousands, of people around the world. I don't want to let them down by not fulfilling my side of the bargain. I've got to get my arse to Copenhagen.
Read an earlier interview with Nguyen on our sister site, GoKunming, here.