Pedaling in the right direction

By Sana Mazloum

From Brisbane to Copenhagen the fight against climate change has no borders. Kym Nguyen travelled for 16 months and covered 18 thousand kilometres to raise awareness for a more sustainable way of travel.

Kym Nguyen is the project manager for Ride the Planet where he is organising various projects to deliver to the delegates at the COP15. Prior to this he was a social worker in the Northern Territory.

“I had been doing a lot of travelling when I was younger and I began to realise how big of an impact tourism has on the environment, especially aviation. I had been working as a social worker prior to this project and I had always thought of ways to travel in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. A bicycle seemed the most obvious answer,” he said.

“I didn’t really have a date that I wanted to leave than a friend told me about Cop15 and it was the perfect place to go to. I wanted to do something about climate change and I wanted to link it with my desire to travel. This was 18 months ago, and I thought it would take me 16 months to get there and I needed two months to do some really intense planning.”

When he was on the road the most difficult thing he had to deal with was the physical aspect of the ride. Kym felt his body struggling to cope with the heat.

“The worst thing to happen to me was in East Timor I collapsed and landed face first on the road and had to get my face all stitched up. I went to the hospital and it was the worst experience of my life because they didn’t have any painkillers. They just stitched up my face while I was conscious.

“I collapsed right in front of a military checkpoint but I was telling them I was fine but there was all this blood running down my face. They asked for 20 dollars to stitch up my face.”

When Kym reached Copenhagen he felt pure relief to have accomplished what he has set out to do. As Nguyen reminisces on arriving he states, “Every now and then my mind would wander and every tiny little thing that I had done (up until then) was focused on that moment arriving in Copenhagen. I had always said that I didn’t have that much money but I just had enough money to get to Copenhagen.”

In regards to the negotiations in Copenhagen, Kym advises that if there is not an agreement then it will act as an impetus for the fight against climate change to grow.  But at the same time if we get an agreement we would have reached a common ground.

Kym decided to get into contact with various organisations and groups and then set off on the journey. He funded the trip with his own finances and only approximately 15 percent was paid for through donations once he started building momentum for the project.

“It ended up that we had 50 events across the world where people got on their bike and recorded several messages. We had rides in Asia, Africa, North America, even Australia and a whole lot in Europe as well.”
“If you could contact one person and then if they contact another person it creates an automatic ripple effect and the message is then passed on.”

He was able to effectively involve people from various countries to perform similar action and to ride their bikes and they recorded messages to give to the leaders at COP15 about what they were doing as individuals for the environment and what they wanted to see happen at COP15.

“I think people, politicians and normal people need to look long and hard and make some painful decisions. Even though it may feel extreme, it is quite necessary. People believe that many of the comforts we just take for granted are modern day rights and to not do these things they think they are regressing back to the Stone Age. If we don’t get those comforts people believe they are missing out.”

Most of the delegates and many environmentalists flew to the conference which is quite a contradiction to the whole point of the summit. Kym was very concerned and stated his concern clearly because the environmental activists should keep to thier agenda.

“Politicians are not really meant to have any agendas or most of them don’t want to be seen as being affiliated with being environmentalists however the activists on the other hand are meant to stand up for their cause.”
Kym said that the private planes used by heads of state to get to Copenhagen are a big problem. “The thing I have been trying to highlight is that change cannot just happen at a government level it also needs to happen at a structural level and the general population needs to do something.”
After the COP15 Summit, Kym will be working on a project called “sustainable earth”

which will incorporate many things that he has learnt on the way. He will launch his project in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Nepal and Australia.

“There needs to be a mental shift in the way that people are thinking. Currently people think about the economical way especially when they are deciding to travel. However people need to actually think about what is the more sustainable way. Essentially we have been enslaving the world and its time this ends,” he said.

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It's done - COP15 was from 7-18 December 2009 - and did not reach the expected results. We (the student newsroom and lab) worked from 6-15 December - and reached more than we expected.

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