A seal on the ice in the Arctic. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Arctic race for Climate solutions

With two weeks left until the global climate conference, the world is ready to take action. This is where our ambitions for the future of the planet will be confirmed, activists from northern Scandinavia say.
November 15, 2015

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in the French capital the days 30th November to 11th December. It is a key arena for global political leaders, but it has also caused a wave of civil engagement and up to 14 000 observers are expected to participate during the fortnight-long event. While waiting for this decisive moment, many already start campaigning far away from Paris.

On Monday, a relay race Run for Your Life started in Kiruna in northernmost Sweden and will take the 1000 participants all the way from the Arctic to Paris. The art project, which is organised by Riksteatern, is just as much an attempt to collect stories about climate change as it is a sports race and all the participants are contributing with their own story about their relation to climate change and why they have decided to engage in the question.

The Sami artist Jenni Laiti ran the first distance in Kiruna and points to the climate challenges that the Sami community faces. “We Sami people who are still connected with nature fight climate change every day”, she says to Dagens Nyheter.  “The warm winters are very problematic for us reindeer herders because of the changing snow conditions.”

People are still invited to join the race but there is also the lazier alternative of following it from the sofa as the entire run is live-streamed on the website.

However, these are not the only people running from the Arctic to Paris. In early August, Erlend Moster Knudsen, a Norwegian PhD student at the University of Bergen, started running the 3000 kilometers from Tromsø to Paris in order to raise environmental awareness as part of the project Pole to Paris.

“The bridge between academia and the general public must be strengthened”, he writes on the project’s website. “We already know more than enough to pave a more sustainable path for all of us. I want to be a part of that future. So I’ll do what I do best: run and talk about environmental issues.”

The project, which is in fact two parallel races, one from each pole, also includes British Daniel Price, who cycles the 12 000 kilometers from New Zealand to France, and along the way they organise talk about climate change and environmental issues.

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Another cycling delegation with members from the Norwegian Green Party’s youth section left Oslo on November 5th for the Tour de COP, yet another biking challenge where Green activists from Norway, Sweden and Belgium will travel to COP21 by bike.

The trip is not so much about limiting their own climate impact as it is a symbolic journey showing that everything is possible. Reversing climate change is “just like biking”, the group writes on the Norwegian Green Party’s website. “We know we’ll get to Paris in time if we only start biking, pedaling hard and learn the way as we go”. An attitude which hopefully will prevail also among the political world leaders in Paris. 

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