At twelve noon the natives swoon, and no further work is done –
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
From the start local girl Kate Rawles was determined not to let the side down. If the British have a reputation abroad for eccentricity she would live up to it, if not enhance it. She chose to start her 4,553-mile solo cycle journey across North America in the hottest state, at the hottest time of year. Most cyclists (by which I mean every other cyclist she encountered on this trip) would mitigate the heat by setting out each day at dawn and resting at noon, but Kate, not being, as she put it a “morning person” never once made an early start and often only got going at mid-day. She only put on her crash helmet once during the trip, preferring to wear a cap, even though the roads were filled with Motorised Caravanners who seemed hell bent on mowing her down.
Kate sets out the story of her journey in her new book The Carbon Cycle. If anyone has asked me recently if I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey I’ve replied “No, I’m too engrossed in The Carbon Cycle”. It’s a real page turner, very funny and every bit as full of pain and human suffering as Fifty Shades is supposed to be.
Kate embarked on her journey mainly I’m sure to explore the limits of her endurance and to enjoy the open road, but she had the secondary purpose of seeing what the Americans thought about global warming and to observe some of its effects. She made the journey quite a while ago, in 2006 and one of the most interesting things about her book is the way the world has moved on since then. She has two arch enemies, Exxon Mobil, who would finance all the groups who lobbied against her cause, and George W. Bush, who was hopeless because of his failure to sign the United States up to the Kyoto agreement. Now, six years later, the Chairman of Exxon Mobil has acknowledged that global warming is a real problem and Bush has been replaced by President Obama who has served a full term and yet the chances of an international agreement are further away than ever. David Nabarro, the UN’s Special Representative for Food Security said last week that this year’s Rio summit was “a kind of funeral procession” for the idea that 192 countries can get together and change the world*.
The focus is now on China, and it’s largely because of China’s booming industrialisation that greenhouse gas emissions rose by 6% in 2010- a whopping 30.6 gigatonnes of CO2 were added to the atmosphere in spite of the recession (as Kate points out in the appendix to her book) making all Europe’s efforts at carbon reduction utterly futile. For her next mammoth cycle ride I’d recommend Kate to travel through China. That might give her a better perspective on where we stand.
The picture shows Kate Rawles with Jonathon Porritt at the launch of The Carbon Cycle at Brockhole, hosted by the Lake District National Park Authority.
*Quoted from Camilla Cavendish- The Times 19/7/12