Kim Nguyen took to the road on his bicycle on August 10, 2008 aiming to reach Copenhagen in time for the UNFCCC conference in December. From Brisbane, Australia to Copenhagen, Denmark his journey will cover around 25,000km across varying landscapes as part of the Ride Planet Earth event promoting sustainable transport and travel to combat climate change. After a year and a half on his bike, he hopes to raise awareness about environmental issues and show that everybody can take action and change their way of life. Kim took the time while passing through Mongolia to talk to us about his inspiring trip.
What led you to undertake this ride?
I’m passionate about travel and about the environment. When I heard about the negotiations taking place in Copenhagen, I thought it was the perfect way to combine these passions. This journey allows me to see the world, take action on climate change and travel in a sustainable way.
It must be pretty tough at times, what keeps you going?
There are some very hard days. Mongolia has been very hard. There are no roads, a lot of sand, a lot of wind and not many places to buy food and water. I even think about quitting from time to time when it gets very tough. What keeps me going is the belief that: by cycling from Australia to Denmark, I can encourage others to change their behaviour and choose sustainable options. I want to motivate people to change by highlighting the impact climate change has on the most vulnerable communities in the world, like the nomads in Mongolia.
How do people you meet react towards your challenging journey?
Reactions vary almost as much as people. Many people just shake their head and think I am crazy. Sometimes people stare at me in bewilderment, sometimes wave and smile in support. The journey I’m taking is so out of the ordinary that some people just cannot understand it.
What impact do you think your journey will have on yourself and the planet?
The journey will undoubtedly have an incredible impact on me. For the planet, it really depends. I put a lot of work into publicising sustainable transport and travel and encourage people to look at their behaviour and think about its impacts. So far almost 250 people have joined the Ride Planet Earth Challenge to cut their car use. I hope by the time I reach Copenhagen there will be many more people joining and therefore many more cars off the road. But we will have to wait and see. All I can do is keep cycling and keep trying.
The big event on December 5 can have a greater impact. Cyclists around the world will join the ride and start “Cycle Change” to tackle climate change. We currently have about 12 events planned across five continents.
How will you measure the success of your ride?
By the number of participants on the ride – the more there are, the more successful it will be. Obviously I hope that the outcome of the negotiations in Copenhagen will be satisfactory. I think this project helps put pressure on governments to take action, it will not be decisive. But I want to start change whether or not governments do, and that change can be measured directly.
What are your thoughts on the future of cars?
I think that with action, dirty petrol-powered cars will be out. But when this will happen is up to the amount and success of actions that will be taken. Individuals and governments need to understand that using cars the way our society has been doing is no longer possible. We have to start using the alternatives. In some countries this is already happening. For instance, electric bicycles are very popular in China, because people can simply not afford to run petrol-powered cars. Of course this change must go hand in hand with a change to renewable energy sources. If these things happen, there is a future for cars. If not, we are in trouble. But it will be hard to change people’s mind, especially in places like Australia, where I’m from – people there consider their car as a main symbol of success and accomplishment. It is very hard to get them to think differently.
Any last comments for our carfree readers?
Get out on your bikes, on your skateboards, roller-skates, pogo sticks, running shoes, and sail boats and explore the world. Just make sure you don’t destroy it while doing so, by exploring it in your Hummer.
Interview by Marko Thull
For more information, please visit www.rideplanetearth.org