Climate Change. Two words, infinite stories. Everyone has heard of it and everyone knows in one way or another what it’s supposed to mean; but not everyone believes in it. What is it with Climate Change that people treat it as if it was something you can believe in if you want? Is it because climate is something that’s tangible only from long-time observation and experience? Are we so used to instant gratification and results that we have forgotten to recognize the subtle and ever ongoing changes in our environments? Is it too slow of a process that one human, or even one generation can observe it? Are we all doomed?!
No, wait. Let’s start differently. Don’t worry! This is not another blog about the ranting misgivings of someone privileged enough to lose sleep over what they think is best for humanity.
This is about something different: We are a small team of young academics and activists who want to experience first hand what Climate Change is all about. What do I mean when I say ‘first hand’? Well, we will walk from the North Cape all the way to the westernmost point of Europe’s mainland, which is located in Portugal. That’s right: Walk. All the way. 11,000 kilometres in little more than a year.
Now for the real question: Are we all crazy? I assure you, no. Well, maybe a little. I would call it enthusiastic. But hear me out first:
Together we will walk across Europe to listen to, experience and connect the stories of human and nonhuman lives in changing worlds. The stories of Climate Change do not end with reducing emissions, saving whales and planting trees. It is about human lives and how they interact with their surroundings. It is about the complex and abstract processes of Changing Climates; processes whose causes and effects are rooted in everyday and concrete interactions. Voice alone can not encompass the entire story and we believe that every voice deserves to be heard. What we can do is listen and exchange our experiences, and that is what we will do.
But this is something for another time. First things first:
Why would anyone want to walk 11,000 kilometres? Why not just take a taxi to the next airport and board a plane? It’s not that expensive to fly these days! Why not use Google Street View to catch a glimpse of different landscapes? It’s so easy! Well, let me ask you then: How do you find out how Climate Change has already affected the people living in the Norwegian Finnmark, in the Alps, or at the Mediterranean coast? You walk with them, listen to them, let them show you. I know, not everyone has the time or privilege to do this. It’s more complicated than that.
In fact, this world is a complicated place, and when so many different ways of living come ever closer in this globalised world, it gets even more complicated; but I don’t have to tell you that. But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be like that? What if there was a way to experience the different ways of life and all those seemingly invisible ways in which they are affected by Climate Change? Step by step we will experience this ourselves, and you can accompany us. We will explain more as we come closer to the project’s realisation, but for now let me tell you this: You can and should be part of the journey, either by walking with us or from the comfort of your home!
So, maybe sometimes we shouldn’t take the easy way out – even when it’s tempting. Sometimes we have to walk 11,000 kilometres to learn the hard way how Climate Change has already permeated our lives. Sometimes we need more than Google Street View to experience a landscape’s transformation under Climate Change. Sometimes we have to travel to experience first-hand what living in already damaged ecosystems means.
You may now imagine why we want to walk all this way rather than taking the next best plane. It is by far not the whole story though. For now I can only promise that there is a lot more you will hear from us. So keep your eyes open for more, and hey – try walking next time. It works wonders.
Walking in this regard, is much like talking, and both are quintessential features of what we take to be a human form of life […] Life itself is as much a long walk as it is a long conversation, and the ways along which we walk are those along which we live.
Ingold, Tim/Vergunst, Jo L. (2008): Introduction. In: Ingold, Tim/Vergunst, Jo L. (ed.): Ways of Walking. Ethnography and Practice on Foot. Ashgate, Aldershot/Burlington: 1-20.
The Climate Walk is a combined research, education and media-art project by the Wanderers of Changing Worlds. It is about walking across Europe to understand regional experiences of Climate Change. It is about listening to local perspectives, learning from them and connecting these stories together to construct a holistic, people-centric understanding of these complex phenomena.
→ Learn more about our project