On a green mission

Climate change
Last Updated : 11 October 2010, 13:39 IST
Last Updated : 11 October 2010, 13:39 IST

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As I rush out from the elevator, I am greeted by Dario Schworer who tells me, “Why didn’t you take the stairs?” I promise to use the stairs instead of escalators and elevators in future and then I begin an hour-long conversation with this environmentalist, climatologist, qualified ski and mountaineering guide about his family — wife Sabine, a nurse and three children Salina, Andri and Noe — and their awe-inspiring journey across the world to spread one message — living in harmony with nature. It’s been eight years since they kickstarted their ToptoTop Global Climate Expedition in 2002. TOPtoTOP is a non profit organisation under the patronage of the United Nations Environment Program and Switzerland.
“Throughout our journey hitherto, we have come across thousands of people who believe that climate change is not a problem at all; especially people living in the cities who are averse to doing anything about it as they aren’t directly affected,” says Dario. But he and his wife did realise the impact. “Sabine and I decided to embark on this expedition in 2002, when we saw the impact climate change was having on the Alps. We first tried to climb all major summits in Switzerland, which later snowballed into this journey of climbing the tallest summit in each of the seven continents.” Leading by example, the family, in order to minimise their carbon footprints, walks, cycles and sails their way to every destination.

Sailing to save the climate
Their sailboat – Pachamama – means ‘much more than mother earth’ and signifies a lifestyle in harmony with nature. It is a vessel that uses renewable energy. Till date the family has sailed over 70,000 kms, climbed 4,00,000 vertical metres and cycled over 18,000 kms.

They hope that their initiative encourages people to travel by foot whenever possible or use bicycles more often as regular means of transport. “Children are our future and our mission is to inspire young people to work towards a more sustainable future. We hope more and more people join us and make individual efforts towards protecting the environment,” says Dario. Which is why, everywhere they go, the family makes it a point to meet schoolchildren, in addition to companies that promote eco-friendly practices and members of the corporate world to share their experiences, the message of environment conservation and connect with the local community.

Dario and his family’s clean-up drives in mountains are anything but a glaring example of the amount of damage humans are inflicting upon the environment. Till date, the family has collected more than 22 tonnes of garbage on their mountain expeditions! “Participating in sports is important but how many of us do it without causing any damage to the environment?” he remarks. His vision is that TOPtoTOP becomes a lasting platform which brings active people closer to nature and sports.
And life hasn’t been easy. Dario and Sabine with just $2000 in their pocket, set out in 2002 to do what they believed in. There were nights when they had to clean dishes in restaurants and survive on whatever food they could get their hands on, but with each year passing by, they have evolved to be more optimistic individuals. “A few years back, everyone began to voice concerns about the issue of climate change. It’s been years since the world has been introduced to the problem. What we want to do is not highlight the problem but suggest solutions,” says Dario.  
He adds that people aren’t sensitised enough towards climate change and its hazardous impacts. “There is this huge gap between rural and urban areas in India especially. “During our interactions with people in cities, they say things like ‘why should we care’; why should we change?’ This leaves us flummoxed. The adverse affects are right in front of us. Take Bangalore for example, a few years back, Bangaloreans never needed any air conditioners to survive in the city. Now they do! If this isn’t a warning sign, what else is?”

Dario says that change starts from an individual. “India has this huge population, if each citizen does something, brings that little change in their lifestyle, imagine the breakthrough!” says Dario. But what about the cynics I say - people who argue that cycling to work or taking the bus is not a practical option, that carpooling doesn’t help much? Dario answers immediately, “It might be difficult to start with but if everyone considers the long term benefits of such moves, it is definitely worth the effort. If you can’t avoid taking your car to work, walk short distances; instead of taking your two-wheeler to the supermarket, walk or cycle the distance; take the stairs instead of using elevators in malls and use public transport; install solar panels on roofs or heaters instead of using electrical geysers.”

I make a note, thanks Dario; walk out of the room; walk down to the stairs and on my way to the nearest bus stop. As Dario says, “The change needs to begin with you.” 

Published 11 October 2010, 13:39 IST

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