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University of Cumbria lecturer and ‘outdoor philosopher’, Dr Kate Rawles is celebrating the publication of her book about her astonishing 4553 mile cycle ride from Texas to Alaska in 2006. The Carbon Cycle: Crossing the Great Divide will be launched at an event hosted by the Lake District National Park at Brockhole on the shores of Windermere on Thursday 19 July 2012.
Kate, who lives in Ulverston, is a passionate environmentalist and cyclist and the book tells the story of her trip, cycling across unforgiving but starkly beautiful landscapes, averaging 75 miles a day, passing through deserts, mountains and forests and climbing over 300,000 feet, more than ten times the height of Everest!
Her route passed through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Alaska and along the way she talked to Americans about climate change – from truck drivers to the Mayor of Albuquerque – to find out what they knew about it, whether they cared, and if they did, what they thought they could do.
Kate's story not only deals with the rigours of the journey (cycling for ten hours a day in temperatures often in excess of 100F, fighting punctures, endless repairs, inescapable grinding fatigue ...) but also does constant battle with her own ideas and assumptions, and helps us to cross the great divide between where we are on climate change, and where we need to be. Can we tackle climate change while still keeping our modern Western lifestyles intact? Should we put biofuel in the camper vans and RVs? Or do we need much deeper shifts in lifestyles, values and worldviews?
After studying philosophy at Aberdeen, Glasgow and Fort Collins, Colorado, Kate taught environmental ethics for many years. She now combines part-time lecturing at the University of Cumbria with her other commitments which include writing, campaigning, lecturing at other universities and running ‘outdoor philosophy’ courses.
“There’s good news and bad news about climate change”, Kate says. “The bad news is that we need to get real – it’s happening, we’re contributing to it and if we don’t tackle it the consequences will be more than a bit of bad weather. We’re facing radical disruption to human and ecological systems.
“The good news is that there is still time to turn this around. I passionately believe that everyone has a role to play in tackling climate change but that the issue needs to be made real and practical action recommended if people are to become more engaged.
“The trip really brought home to me what a wonderful, diverse, extraordinary place planet earth is and made me feel even more strongly about the need to protect it. But alongside the fantastic landscapes and wildlife it confronted me with the worst excesses of consumerist culture; North America holds up a mirror to Europe and allows us to ask, is this really worth paying the earth for?”
Kate has previously cycled along the spine of the Andes, from Caracus, Venezuela to Columbia, Equador as well as completing trips in Israel, Jordan and Spain. She is currently working on postgraduate courses at the University of Cumbria that engage outdoor professionals with climate change and other global environmental issues, and hopes to support the university’s ambitions to become an environmental sustainability champion in a range of other ways, especially on the restructured Ambleside campus.
As for other trips, Kate is planning a similar project that will use a high mountain cycling adventure to raise awareness of biodiversity loss, why it matters and what we can do about it. Watch this space!