Kate Rawles’ Story
Kate Rawles is a freelance outdoor philosopher, writer, lecturer and environmental campaigner. Here, she tells the story of her 2006 Fellowship and the trip across South America in 2017 that it led to.
In 2006 I was lucky enough to be awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship for The Carbon Cycle: a 4,553 mile journey by bicycle from Texas to Alaska, following the spine of the Rockies and exploring North American attitudes to climate change.
It was a fabulous journey, with amazing landscapes and wildlife, as well as a huge diversity of views on climate change, from outright denial to innovative positive solutions.
The journey resulted in a slide show and a book. The overall aim was to use the adventure story as a communication medium back in the UK, raising awareness and inspiring action on climate change with a wide range of audiences. Ten years on and still being asked to give the slide show, I decided that this ‘adventure plus’ idea was working – and that it was time for another one.
My goal this time is to cycle the length of South America, from Colombia to Cape Horn, following the spine of the Andes: the longest mountain range in the world. I’m riding ‘Woody’, a bamboo bike that I built myself with bamboo from The Eden Project in Cornwall (and help from the Bamboo Bicycle Club in London.) We think Woody is the UK’s first home grown bicycle.
The focus of this journey, called The Life Cycle, is biodiversity: what it is, why it matters, what’s happening to it and, above all, what can and is being done to protect it. We are losing species at a catastrophic rate, driven by deforestation, agriculture, pollution, climate change, invasive species and mining, amongst other factors. But there are also many multi-faceted, brilliant conservation projects making a real difference across the whole of South America - which has some of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
As before, the overall aim is to use the adventure story to raise awareness and inspire action. Biodiversity loss is every bit as important as climate change, but much less well understood. I aim to help change that. There will be a new slide show and, eventually, a book when I’m back in the UK in early 2018. I’ve learned a huge amount from The Carbon Cycle, and can’t thank WCMT enough for making that possible.