While the Tour de France may be in Stage 3 now, the smaller, but no less powerful, Bhutan Ride for Climate has only just begun. Youth from Bhutan and the United States have started their 300 kilometer biking tour of Bhutan, including three Himalayan passes over 10,000 feet, to learn first-hand perspectives on climate change, as told to them by the people on the ground—farmers, monks, foresters, and conservationists. The ride ends in Thimphu, the venue of a regional Climate Summit this November. Again at that time, the students will mount their bikes to offer recommendations to political leaders based on their experiences this summer.
The group of cyclists contains four leaders and ten students from Bhutan, along with three leaders and four students from the United States. In one “ice-breaker” session they learned who was afraid of the dark, who likes chilis, and who dreads biking up hills.
One rider, Bhutanese student Thinley G. Norbu, is already thinking about his contribution, “Climate change could change everything that we have, right to the very core of our culture, our way of life. I am happy that I am a part of Bhutan Ride for Climate; from the first day it got me thinking ‘What if?’”
Just as the students are learning to take care of their bikes each night–thorough chain cleaning and lubing–they also are learning that taking care of the environment must happen on a daily basis in order to avoid breakdowns. As the Minister of Agriculture and Service, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, told the students, “If you can, brush your teeth with one drop of water or one glass of water. If you can manage your hair without gels or aerosols, then do that. If you can walk to school or work, instead of driving the car, do that. I think this has to come in your daily life not just formal occasions. With much less waste, I think we will have much less impact.”
Tshewang Wangchuk, who received a National Geographic/Waitt grant for his work on snow leopard population analysis in Bhutan, organized the trip along with the support of the Bhutan Foundation, Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment and the University of Montana’s Nicky Phear.
As the bike tour continues over the next twelve days, students and leaders will contribute their voices, photos, videos and blogs each day. Follow the riders as they shift gears from a six-hour bike ride from Bumthang to Trongsa with a total elevation of 900 meters, to a visit with a small micro hydropower plant.