April 27th, 2021
This is the first contribution to the website for some time. Not surprisingly any plans there had been before the Covid pandemic have been ‘blown out of the water’. Like so many, home has never been lived in so much, for so long. Three to four months of most years will find me either climbing mountains or cycle touring. In recent years I have become addicted to cycle touring, aiming to stay off grid, wild camping as much as possible and enjoying anonymity. I have been reluctant to reflect on the past, choosing to concentrate on the future, planning new experiences and visiting new places. However, reflecting on previous adventures has become preferable to planning future trips that the only certain aspect is, the uncertainly. During the last year I have finally written a book, not about mountain climbing, but the Spain to Norway cycle ride. This trip started on April 1st, 2018, All Fools Day, an apt day. Now the hunt is on to find a publisher.
This world we live in will never again be the same as it was as 2019 drew to a close. In our new world, when that arrives, there are some aspects that we all sincerely hope we do not reengage with, whilst there are others that we will crave for but will be denied. The effects of Covid are beyond profound, the direct loss of life from all those dying of the virus and the indirect effects of further loss of life from those unable to have lifesaving operations that they would normally have received. And whilst I write this, India is descending into a Covid chaos, a desperate situation that can only get worst.
The unfairness, the chance of birth and personal circumstances have been highlighted. Some have benefited from the pandemic, but most have suffered. Here in the UK, we have been able to progress an affective vaccination programme, whereas in other countries whether it be through population density, finance, or a lack of leadership via denial, arrogance, stupidity, or ignorance, vaccination progress has been less than the necessary. We will emerge from this. The hope is that we do not return to some of our disastrous ways of living. The world climate has benefited from our pandemic, I say ours, because it was humans that through their dubious practises caused it.
Climate change should remain firmly on world leader’s agendas. Not just as a distant net zero target in 2050, so when we arrive at January 1st, 2050, the then world leaders can say, “whoops, we missed the target, because those living before us took little action”. Let us not dress this up in anything other than what it is. Selfishness and greed for immediate personal benefit has caused this mess. We all need to recognise that for the world to continue to be a place where humans and all life can survive, we, the human race, must make sacrifices. I am an optimistic person, but that optimism is fast fading. Zero emissions in 29 years’ time seems an age away. It nurtures a misguided belief that we still have time, we do not. We need targets for this year, next year and the following. And a realisation that a failure this year places greater emphasis on the following year.
In some ways I feel hypocritical. Although I hate much of what we are doing to our world, I love this planet, the natural world, the diversity of nature and differing cultures, all of which are under increasing threat. It is still a fantastic place that I want to travel to see more of. Several years ago, my carbon footprint caused by flying to many parts of the world was not good, hypocritical. In more recent years as I have stopped climbing the high mountains that required this flying, and done more cycle touring, that footprint has improved. How much my diligence with recycling and reducing waste from day to day living offsets my travelling is questionable.
Most of us who plan expeditions and trip have been impacted by Covid 19. The planned cycle ride for 2020 from Athens back to Yorkshire was cancelled, but only after numerous alterations required as Covid first arrived in northern Italy, then spread worldwide.
I put together a plan for May this year to cycle from Tallinn in Estonia south through eastern Europe to Albania then north to Dubrovnik. With serious thoughts of cycling home from Dubrovnik to avoid air travel. As the pandemic remains so prevalent, this is not going to happen just yet. There is also a possibility that a friend and I may climb the Eiger in September, but again plans have to remain flexible. I am now incorporating different methods of travelling to destinations to avoid flying.
I still have a wish to cycle the length of Japan, to experience both a land and culture so different to what I have previously experienced. But that is selfish, why should my desire, that would cause further pollution and risk of infection be important? Some may say, “one life, live it”, others say, “the impact you would have would be minimal”. Hold on though! What if a million people did not go on that planned trip? Then there is the counter argument. Societies develop through responses to needs. Travel has been a big part of recent history and industries have built to profit from this. A million people not travelling will affect the lives of many who depend on tourism. From the airline industry, hotels, guides, local shop keepers and so many more associated businesses and hence livelihoods.
If in two hundred years there are not to be wars fought over water and millions of displaced people from sea level cities that have become submerged, then we need to wake up and face up.