Lewis Pugh – Activist Polar Bear

Lewis Pugh knows how to raise the temperature on the issue of climate change. His swims in freezing oceans around the world have earned him the title of the Human Polar Bear.

He also knows how to raise publicity on the causes he cares about. In a 2006 swim down the river Thames (325km in 21 days) to raise awareness of the severe drought in England (he was forced to start with a 42km run as the river had stopped flowing as a result of the drought), the British environmental campaigner dropped in on Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street to talk about global warming. The Prime Minister introduced the Climate Change Bill to Parliament shortly afterwards.

In 2007 he did his most talked about adventure, swimming across the North Pole with just his speedo, his cap and his goggles to raise awareness about climate change in the polar regions. Between 2005 and 2007, 23 percent of the regions sea ice cover had melted away. “It was the hardest swim by a long way,” he says. “It was a very graphic swim as I wanted to raise awareness of the melting ice and I swam across an open path of sea.”

I got a sense of his drive and the urgency around his adventures from his description of the latest adventure he is undertaking later this month.

“In May, I will be attempting a 1km swim under the summit of Mount Everest to draw attention to the impact of climate change on the Himalayan region. I will undertake the swim, at an altitude of 5,300 metres, across the waters of a lake next to the Khumbu Glacier.

These glaciers are not just ice. They are a lifeline – they provide water to a fifth of the world’s population. The Himalayas Region has warmed on average by approximately 1 degree C and glaciers in the region are melting rapidly. Lake Imja, where I will undertake a number of training swims, has formed due to the melting of the Imja Glacier. We must do all we can to raise awareness of the effects of climate change here.

We are living in a global environment. What happens in one part of the world will directly impact other parts. We must stop arguing about whether China, the USA or the EU should act first. Given the urgency every country needs to put in place every solution at its disposal.

There is no time for delay.” – Lewis Pugh

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Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.