Kate Rawles will set off from Cartagena, Colombia in late-January, following the spine of the Andes to Cape Horn at the tip of the continent. Kate quit her lecturing job, has left little time for training and it’s been ten years since her last big cycling trip. Adventure Uncovered recently caught up with Kate before she sets off on a slow adventure away from the pressures and complications of modern life.
Kate, tell us more about ‘The Life Cycle’ – what’s the environmental issue you’re raising awareness about and why?
The main focus of The Life Cycle is the extraordinary diversity of species we share the planet with, otherwise known as biodiversity. As I ride through the amazing variety of South American habitats, from coastal mangrove ecosystems to rain and cloud forests to high mountain deserts, I’ll be exploring what biodiversity is, what’s happening to it, why this matters and, above all, what can and is being done to protect it. I’ll be having an adventure on a personal level, too, of course. I think of this as ‘adventure plus’: harnessing the power of adventure to help raise awareness and inspire action on some of our most urgent environmental challenges. It’s a follow-up to The Carbon Cycle, a ride from Texas to Alaska that I did back in 2006, following the spine of the Rockies and exploring climate change. I used the ride as the basis for talks, a book and various articles when I returned to the UK. The adventure becomes the communication medium for the environmental message, making it (hopefully!) more engaging and reaching all sorts of audiences.
“As I ride through the amazing variety of South American habitats, from coastal mangrove ecosystems to rain and cloud forests to high mountain deserts, I’ll be exploring what biodiversity is, what’s happening to it, why this matters and, above all, what can and is being done to protect it.”
As for why biodiversity, I think, we sort of get climate change now. Most people accept that it is happening and that we really need to tackle it (even if we are not yet doing enough about it.) But biodiversity loss, every bit as important, gets much less attention. We are losing species about 1,000 times faster than the ‘background’ rate of extinction, with potentially catastrophic implications for so-called ‘ecosystem services’ – rather important things like soil fertility, clean drinking water, and so on. It’s been called ‘The Sixth Great Extinction’ – caused by us. And of course, it has huge implications for many of the other species we co-exist with as well as ourselves.
What impact do you expect the cycle to have?
I really hope The Life Cycle contributes to a huge increase in awareness about why other species and ecosystems matter and a huge upsurge in positive actions to protect them. The impact will be shared via social media and articles while I’m en route and then talks, visits to schools and universities and community groups – plus another book – when I’m back.
The trip will be mountainous along some testing roads, how tough and durable is the bamboo bike you’re riding?
Bamboo is incredibly tough and versatile. It’s used to make scaffolding in many countries around the world. I’ve no doubt that the bamboo will be more than up to the challenge. If there are weak points on the bike it will be down to my skills as a novice bike-builder! I built the bike myself, with help from The Bamboo Bicycle Club in London.