Cycle For Seas Launch
Hearts pumping, sweat beads forming and evaporating, muscles twitching and spokes spinning the dust. The spokes that hold the wheel together are elements in exact balance.
Hence Cycle4Seas. An off road cycle of 680 kilometres from Kajiado to Watamu, to mirror the way deforestation upcountry leads to polluted rivers, climate change, poisonous seas and low bio-diversity all linked to our very survival.
All the elements we live on – everything environmental on earth, began with the water cycle. Earth, in our solar system, is the only planet with liquid water, the perfect mixture of gases we call air and temperatures that are just right to sustain life. All this, is what we term climate. Even a little change in the climate, threatens life on earth.
Humans have disturbed the balance. Excessive clearing of land for settlement, agriculture and charcoal, as well as industries pumping out carbon dioxide, which has warmed the earth and is creating deserts with the lowest bio diversity in man’s history.
Half of the earth’s insects who pollinate plants – our crops – have gone extinct in the last 30 years. Their apocalypse will have a disastrous impact on food chains. A diverse gene pool ensures adaptation and evolution of species and consequent survival up the food chain. The climate becoming more extreme so rapidly is making adaptation impossible.
Kenya has over a thousand kilometres of coastline, making it well placed for innovative initiatives to help build the “blue” economy, that would benefit the hinterland as well as the Indian Ocean countries.
Cycle4Seas is organized by Seas4Life Trust and partnered with Oceans Alive. It has already attracted significant sponsorship. The marine ecosystem is linked to the water cycle and cycling for the seas is therefore a poetic sporting event.
Excitement has been mounting for this extreme sporting event that’s taking place at the end of August in Kenya. By the time we went to press, amongst the amateur cyclists – trained by Simon Blake, Assistant Sports Director who began training Kenya Riders Team in 2010 – were Jose Maina who said that since he remembers, the Nairobi river has been thick and black with sludge, but doesn’t Nairobi mean Oasis – a source of fresh water? Adding after describing a cycling accident, ‘Don’t forget your helmet and don’t do crazy things on the road.’
Amongst the other young Kenyans are Simon Kitoti, who began riding as a boda-boda or bicycle taxi when he was a teenager to support his other siblings and who now trains avidly to get to international standards. And secondary school pupil Rashid Kosgei who trains whenever he can.
Cycling events seem to be taking East Africa by storm with the 3rd East African Bicycle Tour taking off from Arusha – 100 cyclists will cover 4300 km in 50 days, from August 1st to 20th September to promote East African communities’ togetherness.
Unlike Tour d’EAC which is largely cycling on tarmac, Cycle4Seas is off road, a safari route through some of the most beautiful wilderness in Kenya. This type of cycling or mountain biking, is an adrenalin pumping activity and one of the fastest growing sports worldwide. One such avid cyclist was the co-founder of Cycle4Seas – the late Jonathan Seex, CEO of Tamarind Group, who died in an aeroplane crash earlier this year.
Michael Dunford of Carnivore Restaurant and Gerson Misumi of Tamarind Group speaking at the launch held at Tamarind Tree Hotel which was designed by Jonathan Seex, spoke of their concerns for tourism’s health given that they are involved in the hospitality industry and that as a seafood restaurant, Misumi said they would ‘self destruct with contaminated food’. They described floating plastic and dirty beaches. Rand Pearson of Mondeas Media pointed out that the sludgy waters of the North Coast were a world-wide concern.
Michael Stanley Jones spoke on behalf of UNEP’s No Plastic Pollution Coalition, endorsing Cycle4Seas and saying the battle was just beginning especially in regard to the fashion burden – micro-plastics from fabrics and the related chemical pollution of waterways.
Nish Lakhani of Terra Safi Eco Products said the aim was to create an annual event like the East African Safari Rally and grab global attention. It is hoped that Run4Seas and Swim4Seas will follow. Julie Church co-co-founder of Seas4Life and Cycle4Seas, said as a keen swimmer she wanted to swim in a clean sea. She quoted a young woman called Greta who said ‘It’s my world, I must do something about climate change’ and added ‘many Europeans do not know what to do, but the answers are out there’. She further stressed that Kenya is well placed to take the lead in innovative solution to build a blue economy.
As I write this, for the last three days, Kenya’s Nation newspaper has featured Kenya’s rivers on the front page under the headings River of Poison – for the Nairobi River, Spectacle of sewer lake – new dam to be sourced from the Athi River and Corridor of disease – referring to the river known as Athi, Galana and Sabaki justy north of the coast. Paul Wafula writes how pineapples that are irrigated by the rivers, domestic animals watered by these waterways and crabs caught at the mouth of the Indian Ocean are all contaminated with heavy metals which cause diseases of the stomach, heart and respiratory systems.
According to the United Nations there is still time—just over a decade to avert the worst effects of climate damage, if we begin to link every economic activity with environmental concerns. This has already started on a global scale. Recently, in Lamu a well-developed plan for a coal plant was thwarted by public pressure, Kenya government mobilized resources to rehabilitate the Mau forest complex which is the largest water tower feeding lakes from Turkana to Natron. Neighbouring Ethiopia broke the record recently by planting 353 million trees in just 12 hours.
Oceans Alive, partners of Seas4Life have created an award winning marine sanctuary and sustainable fisheries in Kuruwitu, which is locally managed. The previously bleached coral reef due to over fishing and trampling by tourists, who removed animal habitats such as shells, is now a snorkeling delight with colourful and vibrant sea creatures.