In retrospect The Climate Challenge came and went like a hot english summer. One minute Rob was cycling up the vertiginous Du Toits Kloof Pass, the next he was arriving in sweaty Durban having traveled a total of 2902km on his eZee electric bicycle. In one month we journeyed through some of the most beautiful parts of the country; the Cape Wine-lands, the vast Langkloof Valley and the rolling green hills of the Midlands Meander. There were countless times I wanted to hop on the spare bike and join Rob on his epic journey across South Africa. Instead, I had to do my bit by driving the support bakkie appropriately named ‘Chippie’ from the burning smell of bio-diesel wafting from the exhaust pipe.
All in all, Rob gave fourteen presentations two of which were impromptu. Although the numbers were not what we had expected, the people who attended took part in some lively and informative discussions. Along the route Project 90 collaborated with various organisations. Indalo Yethu gave their support in Jo’burg and Pretoria, Miss Earth SA finalists joined us at the launch in Cape Town, winner Chanel Grantham MC’d two events in Pietermaritzburg and Durban and WESSA used their wide networks to publicise events from the Garden route to Durban.
Along the way in various towns and cities government officials came to show their support and listen to talks on Climate change. In Johannesburg notably, the deputy minister of environmental and water affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi came and opened the event with great passion and verve. It was outstanding to receive the support from so many different people.
During the Climate Challenge I spent a lot of time by myself reflecting, focussing on why people in general are not motivated and what it is we need to do in order to bring climate change into the mainstream. Aided by quiet stretches of the road and the occasional chat with Rob I found the space to get lost in my thoughts, and mull over my conversations and experiences during the trip. Firstly, climate change is not widely understood in South Africa. Most people have heard of climate change or global warming, but know little about it. Education authorities seem to be doing their job to inform but not to inspire. I spoke to a number of children along the way who certainly studied it at school, but didn’t really feel an invested interest in it.
We, human beings in general I think, lack a sense of responsibility. It’s too easy to point the finger somewhere else and not at ourselves. As I drove into Hofmeyr, outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape, I was struck by the unwelcoming sight of scattered rubbish spread over a large area of land beside the road. Later, I spoke to a young lady working in a coffee shop. She explained that she clearly remembers recycling bins at her school but now at the same school 10 years later the bins have gone. This is one discernible example of a lack of ownership and responsibility. She spoke about they sorting out the rubbish, they organising recycling bins. As a society why don’t we unite together and use the first person plural we? We all have to deal with the challenges presented by climate change, so let’s make it our duty to make sure that we find the solution.
Secondly, one of the most profound conclusions I came to on this trip was how much we live in a bubble in Cape Town. A bubble where we think that everybody thinks and feels the same way as we do about climate change and the environment. For example there are numerous health shops, green companies and organisations and even local government who are doing their bit to promote awareness and take action to create a green Mother City. I’m sure there are similar bubbles occurring all over the planet, but the danger lies in the psyche of living in a silo. We find ourselves sitting comfortably, doing what we do without realising there are so many other facets to explore.
Sometimes we need to take a few steps back and look at the trunk and the roots, as opposed to just the leaves of the tree. Changing behaviour begins with changing the way we think.
I truly acknowledge Rob on his ‘Crazy-ass’ idea of cycling through the country to see and experience what people are doing at a grass root level. He is an example to all of us, somebody who has dared to venture out of this robust bubble.