12-18 December 2014 #736

A lot riding on climate

Claire Li Yingxue and Stéphane Huët

American couple bicycles across Asia to learn about how climate change is affecting people

As a journalist and researcher who had worked on climate change for several years, David Kroodsma wanted to raise awareness about the issue. In 2005, he rode his bicycle 34,000km from California to Argentina and told the story in his book, The Bicycle Diaries.

This whetted his appetite to ride across Asia, where fossil fuel use is growing and many regions are running out of fresh water. Newly wed, David and wife Lindsey Fransen started their Ride for Climate journey from Istanbul in May 2014 for their honeymoon, and have already traversed eight countries. After spending two and half months in China, the couple crossed the Himalaya from Tibet to Nepal last week.

Photos/videos: David Kroodsma and Lindsey Fransen, Storymap: Ayesha Shakya

“We can address global warming with data or storytelling,” says David. “For our travel in Asia we chose the second option.” David and Lindsey meet locals and ask them how climate change is impacting on their lives. “We have been surprised to see that half of the interviewees were aware of climate change, although the knowledge was less than in South America,” David says. The interviews are filmed and the couple plan to make a documentary film on their Asian journey.

“Coming from USA, I don’t think I’m the right messenger about climate change as we have a lot to do back home,” says David candidly.

David and Lindsey have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the people they have met along the way. “People are generous everywhere, but in Asia we have experienced aggressive hospitality,” he laughs, but admits that the most difficult part of crossing borders in Asia is the paperwork.

CLIMATE RIDERS: Linda Fransen on the Tibetan Plateau.
A lot has been happening in Asia on climate issues while they have been riding through it. China and the United States signed an agreement last month under which Beijing will cap carbon emission by 2030 and the US will reduce its emission reduction targets by half. However, the news from India is not so good, the country has announced an aggressive plan to promote coal for energy and has rolled back environmental restrictions to spur economic growth.

David Kroodsma is a data journalist, and although he enjoys the opportunity to interact with people with on-the-ground interviews, he knows its limits. Indeed, this second trip was important for David as he had previously researched on transboundary water issues in South Asia. “After analysing data, I wanted to explore the situation myself,” he says.

To observe the changes in Nepal, Lindsey and David are going for a one-week trek (without bicycles) interviewing local people about the impact of global warming. “We hadn’t planned to stay long in Nepal,” he says, “but we love this country.”

After Nepal, the duo are bicycling on to India, Bangladesh and Burma. After riding thousands of kilometres across Asia, David has become more optimistic, not less, about the environment. “International negotiations are important as I’ve noticed that countries like China and Turkey try to reduce their impact on the environment,” he says.

He has also been reassured to notice the positive response of people for his cause. He says: “When you cross countries on a bicycle, people easily feel sympathy for you.”

For more information, visit Ride for climate

All photographs and videos by David Kroodsma and Lindsey Fransen

Read also:

Climactic change, Tom Owen-Smith

Climate for change, David Molden

Global warning, Nina Pradhan

Change within, change without, Nepali Kukur

Living through the Himalayan thaw, Bhrikuti Rai, Sodhan Manandhar and Ayesha Shakya

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