Friday, 3 July 2015

Climbing for the Climate - 31,000m in July

- A Commitment to Clean Air -

A rare clear winter's day after rain in Santiago
This week I started a challenge which I'm not sure I'll be able to complete...

The Background
I’ve been running for 8months now in the mountains surrounding my home in Santiago, Chile. It’s mid winter here and it’s rained only twice since I arrived. The ski fields are dry and my lips are cracking in the thin air up at 1,000m, where we live. 

Santiago suffers badly from air pollution and is one of the worst capital cities in South America on this index.  The colder temperatures of winter presses this contaminated air down into the lowest altitude reaches of the city, where the poorest people live: Their babies, small children and elderly being admitted to hospital each June and July with respiratory related conditions.

"...Babies, small children and elderly being admitted to hospital
each June and July with respiratory related conditions."
The Andes mountains that sweep around the city, blocking the free flow of air, are part of the reason for the contamination. Other problems are the industry that has been allowed to take a grip in the heart of the city, the insufficient provision of quality public transport, the lack of bike lanes and the poor recycling infrastructure. 

 The government, the President; Michelle Bachelet and the Environmental Minister; Pablo Badenier Mart√≠nez have a lot to answer for.

But it doesn’t stop there….There’s an even bigger culprit really.

The role of the individual
The singular acts of individuals, will be the main reason for the reduction in contamination in this city. The energy, effort and commitment involved in my climbing challenge, won’t do anything to change the air quality in Santiago. It does, however, show a parallel to the strength of mind needed to take seriously our commitments and responsibilities with the environment. 

Choosing a smaller car, to share a lift to work, to eat just vegetables once a week, to recycle all the shit we buy, to take life slower and arrive by bike - these are the changes that are needed - regardless of whether you believe the man on the other side of the fence is making the same effort. Such proactively is what draws the line between negligible and nothing. You can’t build on nothing but a lot of negligible eventually makes a difference.

The Challenge
This month I will try to climb 31,000m above the city - 1,000m of elevation gain each day - to draw awareness to the tragic irony in Santiago that we breathe better when we escape into the thin air, and to show the level of effort needed to try and combat such a problem.

So I’m going into the mountains this month: to breathe some better air; to take pictures of the contamination and have a personal stab at making a difference. 


There are some great people who already are keen to join in but I appreciate that climbing mountains isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You can follow the challenge at GreenBeanTrails on Facebook each day where there are pictures; data from the running App Strava and snippets of info about we can make changes on a personal level to reducing our waste, cutting our emissions and doing our bit.
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Happy Trails. Matt Maynard. 

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