PHUKET: Joanna and Max Hellier, founders of the sustainability change organisation ‘Root The Future’, have begun their 10-day, 1,500km bicycle ride, starting in Chiang Mai and finishing in Phuket ‒ all in the name of climate action.
Max and Joanna are on their way to Phuket, by a 1,500km bike ride to raise awareness about the environment and the benefits of a plant-based diet. Photo: Root The Future
The campaign ride, which began on Saturday (Jan 28), is to raise awareness about Thailand’s burning season in Northern Thailand, ocean pollution in Southern Thailand and promoting switching to a plant-based diet while highlighting how it can help to combat these issues.
Founded in 2020, Root The Future is a community organisation on a mission to raise awareness about climate change and promote the benefits of going plant-based for the health of our planet, the couple explained in a release announcing the Chiang Mai to Phuket ride.
Led by Joanna and Max, Root The Future regularly hosts events and campaigns, alongside daily multimedia content, to engage the community in taking small steps to positively impact the environment.
Some of Root The Future’s most successful projects include the Root The Future Plant-Based and Sustainability Festival, which has been held in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and the annual Root The Future Plant-Based Awards, recognising the efforts of local businesses that are propelling sustainable food culture forward.
In 2021, Root The Future ran a full marathon (42 kilometres) to raise funds for vegan restaurants affected by the pandemic. Last year, the distance was increased to 50km, and the public was invited to participate by pledging to their own plant-based goals and/or by joining in on the run. Due to the popularity of the initiative, the Run The Future running club was formed, now meeting every Saturday to raise awareness for the environment.
This year, Root The Future is looking to go even bigger in the name of climate action, eyeing a distance of 1,500km. The duo will be cycling from Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand to Phuket in the south, in 10 days, covering a daily average of 150km over various terrain.
They will do this entirely fueled by plant-based food, whilst highlighting actionable solutions to climate-related issues in Thailand and across the world. A camera man will be following them from start to finish in anticipation of a documentary film, which will be released after the event.
The Not-So-Fun Facts
Northern Thailand’s air quality drops to significantly unhealthy and unsafe levels for several months of the year during the burning season, this also affects the rest of the country.
As a result of continuous burning, PM2.5 levels in Thailand have been on the rise. In 2020, it was estimated that the average Thai resident was exposed to an annual PM2.5 concentration of 21.4 μg/m3, nearly two times the World Health Organization (WHO) target of 10 μg/m3.
But why is this happening? Is it a new problem?
The global increase in demand for meat in the 1980’s, led to the commercial livestock feed industry (which is food for animals raised for meat), demanding ever-growing quantities of maize (or corn). This led to a boom in maize farming in the mountainous Northern provinces of Thailand in the 1980s. Livestock agriculture has become so aggressive, it is driving the conversion of forest land into mono crop farmland in Northern Thailand, and the shift to chemical intensive maize. The fields of which are often burned after harvest.
But the farmers aren’t to blame! Due to a lack of alternatives and funds for more sustainable and environmentally friendly options, tens of thousands of small farms spread across 17 provinces, carry out the process of burning. The burning is to clear fields of large quantities of biomass, such as corn husks and stalks. The burning of the fields is also an effort to make the soil fertile enough to grow on again, after being degraded by the hazardous, chemical-intensive maize farming.
By switching to a plant-based diet, we reduce the demand for meat, and therefore the demand for cheap animal feed. This, in turn, will reduce maize intensive farming and the associated burning that happens in Northern Thailand.
“Plant-based food might just clean the air!” the couple explain.
The oceans are critical to life on earth. Home to 80% of the planet’s living organisms, our oceans also absorb four times the amount of carbon dioxide than the Amazon rainforest and produce 85% of the world’s oxygen via phytoplankton.
Unfortunately, the ocean’s fragile ecosystem is becoming increasingly unstable, and the water and coastlines are becoming overrun with plastic pollution, which is suffocating vital marine life and eventually ending up in the food that we eat.
Overfishing is not only causing a breakdown in this fragile ecosystem, but is also polluting our oceans with millions of tonnes of discarded fishing gear. Discarded fishing gear (a.k.a. ghost gear) including nets, lines and pieces of equipment, make up the majority of the oceans’ macro plastic pollution, which is damaging coral, killing sea life and eventually ending up as microplastics in our food.
Additionally, studies estimate that up to 40% of all marine life caught by fishing vessels is bycatch (non-targeted species such as whales, dolphins, turtles, stingrays and sharks). For example, approximately 50 million sharks are killed each year as bycatch.
By reducing or removing marine life from our diets, we can help clean the oceans, save marine animals and also reduce our microplastic and heavy metals consumption.
The Good News: The Solution is Fun!
What can we do to help reduce the burning in the north and improve the air quality? Reduce the demand for animal meat and replace our food sources with delicious, nutritious and more agriculturally efficient plant-based ingredients.
As for our oceans, by reducing our fish consumption we can reduce the harm to the ocean’s ecosystem. By reducing our fish consumption we will be reducing the demand for fish overall, which will also reduce by-catch and ocean plastic pollution from discarded fishing gear. The solution to ocean pollution and degradation is to reduce the demand for seafood.
Who knew that eating plant-based food could give us cleaner air and cleaner oceans?
The main climate-rated issues Root The Future intends on raising awareness for with this ride include:
- Crop burning and air pollution in Northern Thailand and how this is affected by our food choices
- Ocean pollution in Southern Thailand (and globally) and how this is affected by our food choices
- The positive environmental impacts of plant-based food (and how they can help to solve #1 & #2)
- The fuel potential of plant-based food for intensive physical challenges
- The ease and availability of plant-based food in Thailand
The following channels will be used to broadcast the initiative to a wide audience:
- Daily YouTube live stream
- Celebrities who will join portions of the ride
- Documentary film
- Daily giveaways
Daily Giveaways include Greengene (1 multipurpose blender), Hey Day Plant-Based Protein Powder (1 year supply of plant-based protein powder), Akins (1 hamper of cruelty-free, plant-based, and reef-safe sunscreen products), Oatside (1 year supply of plant-based milk), CRYO Therapy (B11,000 credit for cryotherapy sessions), U.S. Pulses (1 year supply of U.S. beans and lentils), vouchers from 10 plant-based restaurants in Bangkok and many others!
How Can People Get Involved?
The public can join the cause in four main ways:
- Eating plant-based during the 10 day campaign in support of the #ClimateCycle and sharing the experience on social media using the hashtags
- By cycling in your own community or in a local cycling-friendly area, in support of the #ClimateCycle and sharing the experience on social media using the hashtags
- By using the #ClimateCycle Instagram filter!
- Sharing the Climate Cycle content and documentary
People are encouraged to use the hashtags: #CycleForCleanAir #CycleForCleanOceans #EatingPlantsForThePlanet
As a not-for-profit company, Root The Future relies on the support of sponsors for projects and campaigns. Nothing they do would be possible without their supporters and partners.
For this project, Root The Future is partnering with:
- U.S. Dry Bean Council and U.S.A. Dry Pea & Lentil council, who will provide Root The Future with sustainable sources of plant protein from chickpeas, with the help of Eat.Co vegan restaurant
- Optima Bike, who will provide premium bicycles and equipment to Root The Future to help keep them safe and comfortable along the route
- One Charge, who will provide an EV follow car to help carry supplies and keep the riders safe
To keep up to date with Joanna and Max’s progress while en route to Phuket, follow them at:
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