With controversy, lack of action and disappointment at COP28, it’s easy to lose hope.
The climate summit is a process whereby the powerful elite makes decisions that affect the lives of billions of people, and so far, we have witnessed conflicts of interest, underhanded lobbying, and rumours of backroom deals. This has undoubtedly muddied the waters, and when it comes to climate finance, the fossil phase-out, and food systems transformation, there’s a lot to be concerned about.
But amid all this, there are pockets of light, activists raising their voices, and communities connecting.
Michael Evertz, a sustainability researcher and economist, arrived in Dubai this week, having cycled an 8,862-kilometre journey, carrying this light with him to spread the message of sustainability.
Beginning in Berlin on Earth Day, Evertz spent 222 days cycling across Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, over different terrains and through gruelling heat that, at times, was so extreme, Evertz said he questioned whether he should go on.
He explained he experienced first-hand how climate change is intensifying, enduring 50-degree heat in Turkey.
“The total weight of my bike is between 55 to 58 kilos, and when you have to cycle in those kinds of temperatures, I thought, “Michael, is it better to give up?”
However, the cyclist, aged 64, said that he was spurred on by the thought of bringing hope, “Even if I’m only a small light,” he said, adding that the people he met along the way helped drive him forward.
Indeed, through his journey, Evertz said that his main task was to speak to local people, share the message of climate action, and hear their stories.
He explained that on his journey, he helped to illustrate the interconnection of different crises, such as climate change, water scarcity and food insecurity.
“There is something wrong in our world,” said Evertz, “our economic system is not sustainable. Here, we are only talking about climate change, but this is not enough.’
Evertz highlighted that there’s a staggering percentage of the world’s population that are living in poverty, and that with climate change, this will only get worse and cause further social crises.
First, Evertz said, we must address this inequality, inequity and poverty.
“Everybody has the right to a sufficient life, and if we make this possible, then we have a chance to take care of our planet,” he said.
“But when people are very poor, it’s not possible to think about the planet, when they have to think about how they’ll feed their children tomorrow.”
Collaboration & connection
Evertz said that when it comes to action, his speciality is collaboration. “If only in my little part, I want to connect these countries which I’m crossing and start with some little steps. It can perhaps become bigger and bigger.”
“And this is what I want to share with people: everybody has a chance to do something, and please, do something.”
Evertz said that he was blown away by the reaction he received from people and spoke about how he had been greeted.
“If you speak with people on an eye level, there’s so much respect, and if you speak to people in a direct dialogue, you can do a lot of things.”
“We have to fight together for a better world,” said Evertz.
Evertz has not finished his trip yet, though, and after COP28, he will continue through Cairo, Egypt, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
In the lead-up to COP, there have been a number of cyclists who have undertaken similar journeys with the aim of spreading the message of sustainability and inspiring action, including Team Tour De Cop, Yousef El Haouass and Salim Rhandi.
Each journey these cyclists have undertaken has conveyed the human side of the climate crisis, the importance of “working as one planet,” and that, as Evertz says on his Instagram page, expedition_hope_earth, “Hope needs action.”