What we learnt from the Human Polar Bear

Scenic South,  hosted a talk by Lewis Pugh, the acclaimed Environmental Campaigner & Swimmer Extraordinaire – also known as the Human Polar Bear. He spoke about swimming in the coldest places on earth to raise awareness about climate change. Project 90 went along to listen and to speak to people about cutting carbon. The venue was packed and we got 90 signatures on our Solar Water Heater petition – thanks to our 7 Project 90 clubs volunteers who helped us with this.  

Scenic South aims to create sustainable, safe, united and informed communities and have recently launched their Courage 2 B Cool  campaign which aims to encourage a value system which moves away from worshipping stuff to valuing people and the natural environment. 

Lewis was a great speaker and kept us captivated through the story of his life and how it related to climate change. His father had been involved in the testing of atom bombs and, as a child Lewis saw how man could destroy nature in an instant. He first became aware of climate change in 2003 while staying in the North Pole with a group of climate scientists, and on his return trips he would see the glaciers retreating as they melted. Everything that he now sees reaffirms his belief that climate change is real and happening.  

Lewis journeyed to the North Pole where he saw polar bears, vulnerable and threatened by the effects of climate change. These magnificent creatures could become extinct within 40 years. After completing a gruelling 1km swim in the North Pole sea he couldn’t feel his fingers for four months and vowed never to do a cold water swim again.  

And then he went to Mount Everest.  

Lewis saw the melting icecaps and observed the impacts this would have for the communities depending on the water these would being each summer. And so he decided to swim in a lake near the top of Everest, in freezing cold water, with very little oxygen in the air due to the high altitude. This swim became life threatening when he could not get enough oxygen into his lungs and, choking for air, he sank to the bottom of the lake – twice! He then knew that he would need to change the way he swam and his approach to his swimming in order to succeed. The lessons he learnt were

  1.  Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it can work in the future
  2. We need to ask ourselves, what type of mindset do we need to have to complete the task

 Climate change is the Everest of our problems and Lewis urged us all to use those two lessons that he applied to his swimming to climate change: Just because we have populated, polluted, degraded and spoiled our environment in the past doesn’t mean that we can continue to do this in the future. What radical and tactical shift do we need to take in our lives to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a future?  

Lewis almost drowned before he changed his way of swimming and he fears that the same is going to happen to us. Will it take a huge calamity on earth before we start to make changes?  

 Lewis is a great advocate of interstate and intergenerational justice and encouraged us all to look at the way live and make changes in order to protect the environment. For practical ideas to help you cut carbon, visit our website: www.90×2030.org.za  

Protecting the environment not only makes good business sense, but it is our moral and ethical duty. Lewis says that very few things are impossible to achieve and climate change is one of them. Coming from a man who swam in the sea in the North Pole I am inclined to believe him. 

“There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind” Lewis Pugh


One response to “What we learnt from the Human Polar Bear

  1. Great post about an phenomenal man! We were privileged enough to meet him fleetingly a few years ago, and he made a lasting impression. Thank you for including that profound quote at the end.

    You guys are doing a fantastic job – in reality and on your blog – you have our votes 🙂

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