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Pär Johan Åstrand and other members of Protect Our Winters France.
Pär Johan Åstrand left Falun, Sweden on the 17th of June, setting off on a 3,000km bike journey to his home in Monte Rosa, Italy to spread awareness and information about the melting of glaciers and address the key drivers of climate change. During the journey, extreme heat across the world broke all-time records, triggering glacial collapses, wildfires and heat-related fatalities.
‘Italy has changed my life,’ Pär Johan Åstrand said before setting off on his Ride For Glaciers challenge. ‘As the place that has come to support me, my hobbies and my family, the least I can do is draw attention to the crises taking place across her mountains. Through this project we are collecting donations to help support our newest national organisation: POW Italy. We are planning to use most of what we raise to study the glaciers of Monte Rosa.’
As a dedicated cyclist who spends most of his free time riding in the Italian Alps, Pär witnessed firsthand the rapid deterioration of his local glaciers over the last decades, prompting him to become a climate activist with charity Protect Our Winters. The receding glaciers and diminishing snow cover in the mountains of Pär’s homeland spurred him on in his decision to act, getting on his bike in an attempt to cross Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, and Switzerland, finishing at his home in Alagna, Monte Rosa, Italy – the second highest mountain massif in western Europe after Mont Blanc.
Pär cycled over 3,000km to raise awareness of glacial damage caused by climate change.
As Pär peddled through rocketing temperatures on his 20th day on two wheels, tragic news emerged from Northern Italy of 11 mountaineers perishing in an avalanche triggered by a glacier collapse in the Dolomite range, further cementing the importance of his efforts.
Temperatures near the Marmolada’s 3,300m summit are believed to have reached over 10°C on the day of the collapse, and scientists say the disaster was indicative of the effects of climate change on the region. According to studies by the Italian National Council for Research (CNR), the Marmolada glacier will have melted by 2050 if climate change continues at its current rate.
On average, Alpine glaciers lost more than 24m in ice thickness between 1997 and 2017, and a further 1.5m in 2018 alone according to research by the European Commission. The impact of climate change on our mountainous and alpine environments is undoubtedly escalating at a rate that can’t be ignored, not only in Europe but around the world.
Only five days after the disaster in the Dolomites, tourists in Kyrgyztan narrowly avoided being engulfed in a huge avalanche that once again was triggered by a glacial collapse in the Tian Shan range. A video caught by Harry Shimmin, one of the party which included nine Brits and an American, shows a cloud of snow and debris ploughing towards where he is stood, before it engulfs him. Miraculously, none of the party were seriously injured, and Shimmin emerged from the avalanche with only bruises.
this extreme heat has dire consequences for communities and environments around the globe. We’re on a profoundly dangerous trajectory
By the end of last week, France had evacuated more than 16,000 people from regions ravaged by wildfires which have consumed 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) of land. From Morocco in the west to Crete in the east, thousands of firefighters across the Mediterranean have been battling fires brought about by unprecedented heat and dry vegetation and water-carrying aircraft have been deployed in an attempt to douse the flames.
In the U.K, as temperatures peaked at 40.2°C at Heathrow Airport, Climate Scientists expressed grave consternation. Temperature records are usually broken only fractionally, but this increase of 1.5°C since 2019 demonstrates a significantly more rapid increase than previously predicted.
In a statement on social media, POW U.K said:
‘This is more than just a passing summer heatwave – it’s climate change, and a glimpse into what the climate crisis will bring if we don’t act immediately.
‘Beyond the risk to public health and impact on public services in the U.K, this extreme heat has dire consequences for communities and environments around the globe. We’re on a profoundly dangerous trajectory.’
Pär crossed the finish line of his 3,000km journey last week, rolling into Alagna, Italy to conclude his efforts. News of dramatic temperature increases as a result of human-caused climate change throughout his journey served as poignant reminders of his purpose, and Pär credits his idea to POW’s prevailing message that small, individual actions are just as valid and important as the larger-scale, governmental action.
‘It was a particular motto of theirs that really stuck with me which explained how you don’t have to be perfect to contribute to climate work – Strive for improvement instead of seeking perfection – and this got me thinking about not only my journey, but all the things each of us can do as individuals,’ he says.
‘What we’re doing isn’t about saving the planet, it’s about saving our way of life for generations to come.’
Protect Our Winters is an environmental not-for-profit organisation that aims to help passionate outdoor people become effective climate advocates, to achieve systemic solutions to climate change. To find out what steps you can take toward fighting climate change, you can visit their website.
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