Changing Planet

‘Tour de Bhutan’ Tackles Climate Change

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.

Learn More:
Bhutan Ride for Climate: Engaging Youth Voices in the Climate Summit
Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas

Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.
  • Zombieduck

    What an incredible event, I used to think (when I was a kid) that riding my bike to the ballpark to shag fly-balls for the minor league team was a major quest. It’s good to be a kid.

  • Ima Ryma

    Going from U.S. to Bhutan.
    Going on a jet plane that burns
    Fossil fuels so I can get on
    A bike and ride the twists and turns
    Of the Himalayan high peaks,
    To chat with folks along the way,
    Rubbing blisters upon my cheeks,
    To put the climate on display.
    The climate needs me and my kind
    To help save it from you and me.
    The more we try the more we’ll find
    Hot air is all we really be.

    My mission – one group really likes –
    The manufacturers of bikes.

  • […] 'Tour de Bhutan' Tackles Climate Change – National Geographic News …Youth from Bhutan and the United States have started their 300 kilometer biking tour of Bhutan, including three Himalayan passes over 10000 feet, to learn first-hand perspectives on climate change, as told to them by the <> […]

  • sonam tenzin

    i am a journalist working in a daily newspaper called bhutan today ,,it would be nice if i could get some more information about it….thanks

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