Point A to point Be Aware

This year, a 50-year-old doctor and a 24-year-old activist cycled 5000 km to raise awareness.

Cycling from northern Srinagar and southern Thiruvananthapuram in India, Dr. Unni Karunakara educated on public health and encountered the realities of cancer, water, sanitation, and youth drug problems.

Traveling from Victoria, B.C. to Ottawa, Ontario, Joseph Boutilier’s sought to draw attention from Canadian legislation to act on climate change.  Public Health and Climate Change are massive issues around the world;  even with both initiatives’ intimidating scale, both cyclists chose an environmental vehicle to spread the word: unicycles.

“Unni’s packing strategy was ruthlessly methodical. Like a surgeon laying out his instruments for theatre, Unni laid out all the essentials: helmets, pumps, tires, tubes, puncture kits, pannier bags, lights, locks, shoes, gloves and gear, including his signature cycling shorts and a selection of some of the t-shirts he’s collected from MSF offices and missions around the world.”

 Esmerelda Jelbart Wallbridge, Team Unni

As the former President of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), Dr. Unni began riding in October 2013 and fundraised 131% of his $100,000 goal to raise money for Public Health.  

 “A journey of this magnitude, across a country so defined by chaos and contradiction, might seem to be a complex and complicated endeavour. But at the heart of Unni’s vision is radical simplicity: Unnicycles is about people. Unnicycles is about connection. Unnicycles is about conversations.”

 Esmerelda Jelbart Wallbridge, Team Unni

In roughly equal distance, Joseph Boutilier rode his unicycle for climate change. He told Metro News “A lot of folks do the ‘cross-country for a cause’ thing, and it’s a little hard to stand out from the crowd.”

The journey kicked off in April. Joseph left Victoria, British Columbia and embarked to Ottawa, Ontario to urge the Canadian government to take action on climate change.

See map at Campaign Unity for Climate Change

On September 15th, Joseph arrived in Ottawa. Now, he’s working on climate marches in NYC.

Last weekend, the People Climate March swarmed the streets of New York. Some reports say it was the largest climate march in history, surpassing Copenhagen’s held in 2009. There is ongoing, hot debate over the authenticity of this march and the realistic impact individuals make, or in this case, biking across the country will do for long term solutions. Unni and Joseph both biked for campaigns, which I mention not meant to undermine the guts, endurance, and leadership they demonstrated.. They didn’t have to finish. Their goals continue after reaching the tip of India and Ontario. Both want conversations to circulate.

Personally, when I hear about the statistics behind climate marches, yes, they are impressive, but they don’t inspire me to take calculated steps to stop environmental and social injustice. Yes, lawmakers are influenced by the numbers, as President Nixon was during the Earth Day rallies at the dawn of the EPA, the clean water act and environmental activism that achieved some goals. Hearing stories like Joseph and Unni’s does make me want to not only hop on a bike but use the open space to ride with friends and talk about the issues we care about. We are all vulnerable, and the bicycle is among the greatest inventions to deliver news, spread awareness, and participate in a bigger picture of how public health and environmental problems exist, remembering that both issues will never be contained.




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