World leaders seem to contradict what they are in Glasgow for, as they arrive at the COP26 by means of polluting private jets or with several cars. Luckily, there are those who, out of the spotlight, chose an alternative and sustainable way of travelling, carrying an important message as well.
By Ilaria Bionda | YPA Italy
While world leaders are being criticized for reaching COP26 by means of polluting private jets or followed by many security cars, a lot of people travelled to Glasgow in alternative ways, to raise public awareness about pollution and climate change. The goal is one for all – to promote a sustainable way of travelling – but everyone brings personal and peculiar ideas and motivations for their journey.
On 1st November, a group of 39 activists arrived by bike at the Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, after covering 500 kilometers. The group was formed by workers from children’s hospitals, who cycled from London to sensibilize about the damages that air pollution causes in children in particular. During their journey, they stopped along the way, meeting the people and discussing their issues.
Another group left London to reach Glasgow by bike, as part of Ride the Change, a project open to organizations and individuals with the mission of connecting through the shared ride challenge, experiencing the positive impact we all can have and influencing by sharing their story, on the theme of climate change. More than 500 miles were also covered by a third group of cyclists, leaving from Brighton and arriving at the COP26 venue in 9 days. They proposed activities in the cities where they stopped along the journey, again with the aim of raising awareness about sustainable ways of moving. The idea was to show how to achieve a low-carbon way of travelling and, at the same time, to pressure world leaders to take rapid decisions during the COP26.
Not only groups decided to undertake this alternative journey: Jessie – a 16-year-old activist from Devon – chose to use her bike to go to Glasgow, travelling for 917 kilometres, after realizing how expensive the train is. She is convinced that youth voices must be heard, and this is her way of making herself heard. Despite the initial concern of their parents, she convinced them and began her journey to the COP26.
Someone left by bike to Glasgow from across the Channel as well: Omar Di Felice, an Italian ultra-cyclist, decided to challenge himself by joining COP26 after 2.000 km in eight days. He left from Milan and crossed Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, France and finally the UK, passing close to places that hold a relevant significance for the climate crisis, such as the Ticino glacier and some nuclear plants in France. Omar also managed to bring his bike inside the COP26, a first time in the history of the event.
We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his amazing experience. The first motivation that pushed him to undertake this incredible journey cam from his previous adventures around the world: “travelling in remote areas of the Planet makes me go close to an irreproachable reality: climate change warnings are evident and irrefutable everywhere, from the retreat of glaciers to the extreme meteorological events”. For this reason, he decided to launch the project “Bike to 1.5°C – Road to Glasgow” with the aim of carrying the message that “… the change is possible with powerful and sustainable vehicles like a bike”. Omar is strongly convinced that the action of each of us is indispensable, so he asked for the help of technicians, scientists, physicians and climate experts to organize live-streamed moments during his journey, to maximize the effect of his message by showing solutions that could be possibly adopted by everyone of us. “Taking the bike inside the COP was a necessary and strongly desired act, to launch a clear signal to politicians that they act now, putting aside words and promises. It was also an emotion I can’t describe, like reaching the Everest base camp or cycling beyond the Polar Circle” he said. He thinks that the two wheels are the healthier and the more natural vehicle, able to help people reaching the most ambitious objectives and goals. “I believe in the great value of the bike”.
The story of Omar, as the others narrated here, can be positive examples that stimulate us to undertake an incredible journey also in our little individual dimension, motivating us to think and act in sustainable ways every day.