A highlight of this year’s World Environment Day is the launch of the Climate Heroes which supports individuals who are undertaking exceptional personal feats, high-profile expeditions, and other acts of environmental activism to demonstrate their commitment and to raise awareness for one simple idea: Your planet needs You! Their projects focus on environmental “hot topics” like CO2 output, finding smart solutions to beat waste and tree planting.
UNEP collaborates with these Climate Heroes to help inspire and motivate people to unite to combat climate change. Through their acts, and the attention they generate, they give voice to individuals and organizations across the globe that care about the state of our planet and want to see real change and real commitment.
Ultimately, the Climate Heroes call on each of us to do what we can: from adopting the simplest habits like turning off running water when we are brushing our teeth, to organizing a public or workplace event for World Environment Day or taking a stand and participating in the Seal the Deal! on-line petition. And all of their missions invite participation from those of us who want to get involved and act more.
Through our united efforts, we can all be Climate Heroes and we can make a difference.
Here are some of their inspiring examples:
Unite to Combat Climate Change: Pull Together
Roz Savage is the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. Coupled with her solo row across the Atlantic in 2005-6, she has now rowed over 11,000 miles, taken 3.5 million oarstrokes, and spent cumulatively nearly a year of her life at sea in a 23-foot rowboat. She uses her ocean rowing adventures to inspire action on the top environmental challenges facing the world today.
A latecomer to the life of adventure, Roz worked as a management consultant in London for 11 years before deciding that true quality of life is to be found in who we are, rather than what we own, and that conspicuous happiness is more important than conspicuous consumption
She has braved 20-foot waves, been capsized 3 times in 24 hours, and faced death by dehydration when both her watermakers broke. She has encountered whales, dolphins, sharks, and turtles, and admired the timeless beauty of sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled night skies. The ocean has forced her to develop courage, tenacity, perseverance, and the strength to transcend self-imposed limits.
She is a UNEP Climate Hero and an Athlete Ambassador for 350.org . She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, and has been listed amongst the Top Twenty Great British Adventurers by the Daily Telegraph and the Top Ten Ultimate Adventurers by National Geographic. Her book, “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”, is published by Simon & Schuster. The eponymous documentary based on her Atlantic row was a finalist in the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2009.
In 2010 she was named Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic.
Unite to Combat Climate Change: Ride Japan
This father and son team, Charles & Sho Scott, will embark on a two- month bike ride across the entire mainland of Japan on connected bikes. The 4,700 kilometer journey will take them from the northernmost point of Cape Souya to the southern tip at Cape Sata, through 11 World Heritage Sites. They will begin promoting the trip in New York City on 5 June to coincide with a World Environment Day-related activity to encourage participation for the summer ride. The two were inspired to use this ride to encourage action on climate change after watching the BBC’s Planet Earth documentary and recognizing the critical and immediate need.
They will simultaneously be supporting a call to action for people to help UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign achieve its goal of planting seven billion trees – one for every person on the globe – this year. Currently, three billion have been planted and five billion pledged. They will also promote the Seal the Deal! effort and eight-year old Sho will address the UNEP/TUNZA International Children &Youth Conference in Korea by video-telegram from a remote location during his expedition as an inspiring example and youth ambassador. www.japanbikeride.com
Unite to Combat Climate Change: PlastikiExpedition
Inspired by a UNEP report on marine litter, David de Rothschild made it his mission to conduct further research on the topic. He wanted to create a compelling and pioneering adventure that would inspire people to act more responsibly towards our planet. Moved to action, David and a handpicked crew of leading scientists, sailors, adventurers, thought leaders and artists plan to set sail approximately 10,000 nautical miles across the Pacific. The boat, called Plastiki, is a distinctive, one-of-a-kind 60-foot (20m) catamaran made out of reclaimed plastic bottles, srPET plastic and recycled waste products. Their mission: To beat waste by thinking smart and showcasing how refuse can be used as a resource thus inspiring sustainable solutions for a better way of living.
The voyage will sail through a number of exciting, challenging and environmentally-sensitive regions, including the ominously named Great Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, an area six times the size of England where plastic outweighs plankton by 6 to 1 – essentially, the world’s largest waste dump. Supported by Adventure Ecology’s network of global supporters and institutions, Plastiki will use the expedition not only to raise awareness on out-of-sight and out-of-mind issues facing our planet but also to act as the catalyst to activate change by bringing smart solutions to the forefront. The vessel will be outfitted with satellite phones and computers ensuring regular feedback for the world. www.theplastiki.com
Unite to Combat Climate Change: Project Kaisei
Project Kaisei consists of a team of innovators, ocean lovers, sailors, scientists, sports enthusiasts and environmentalists who have come together with a common purpose: to study how to capture plastic waste in the ocean, detoxify, and recycle it into diesel fuel.
This first research mission, scheduled for the summer of 2009, will be critical to understanding the logistics that will be needed for a successful clean-up operation as some of the technology required for such a feat has never been utilized under oceanic conditions.
Why is this a critical mission? Every year over 60 billion tons of plastic are produced, much of it for one-time use and less than 5 per cent of the world’s plastics are recycled. National Geographic estimates that over 85 million plastic bottles are used every three minutes. Much of plastic waste that is not incinerated, which is toxic in its own right, or land-filled, makes its way to the oceans. As the waste breaks down, it is mistaken for food, kills hundreds of thousands of birds and marine life, and is now making its way into our food chain.
Currently, there are no proposed solutions to resolve the issue of plastics in the oceans. Most believe it is not possible to clean such a vast space, and aim for more responsible handling of waste on land. However, using advanced technology, Project Kaisei’s objective is to test catch methods, and demonstrate that at least some of the Plastic Vortex can be recycled and cleaned through a first-of-its-kind, patented solution. National Geographic will cover Project Kaisei’s work for a documentary film and Google Earth will track its progress with imagery and high tech overlays. www.projectkaisei.org
Luo Hong, President of Holiland LLC, Photographer, Environmentalist
Luo Hong has long devoted himself to natural landscape and wild animal photography. He has been to Eastern and Southern Africa 21 times in the last ten years to photograph wild animals. To mark the World Environment Day in 2006, Luo Hong held his solo photographic exhibition, entitled "Earth, Our Home" at the Headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. He has also held many exhibitions in China. All his exhibition artworks were auctioned for charity, with the entire income donated for environmental causes. In November 2006, he established the Luo Hong Environment Foundation, setting out to train and reward young talent worldwide for environment protection. In 2007, he traveled to the Arctic and Antarctic to photograph wild animals. In 2008, the Luo Hong Environment Foundation sponsored UNEP's Painting Competition by Children in China, a hugely successful event with about 1.5 million participants. This competition was held again in 2009.
Luo Hong has been awarded the title of "Outstanding Photographer" by the Chinese Photographers Association. He is also the author of many books, among them "In the Name of Love", "Uncle Luo Hong in Africa" and "A Chinese Photographer and His African Friends".