A climate cycle
Retired vets and Edinburgh graduates Martyn Edelsten and Tim Fison are cycling from Edinburgh to Paris to lobby world leaders at the United Nations COP21 Conference.
The cliché is that retirement is a time to take things easy, to concentrate on the garden and develop a love of antiques and daytime television. There is also a preconceived idea that maturity and age are synonymous with careful conservatism and not radical social change.
Not so Martyn Edelsten and Tim Fison, who are linked through the University's Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine. Both completed their MScs in tropical veterinary science at the Centre and Martyn worked as as the director of the same MSc for a number of years.
Despite being in their early 70s and not having previously undertaken a long distance cycle ride, they are riding the 750 miles from Edinburgh to Paris in the middle of winter to express and share their concerns about climate change.
Impact of student experiences
Martyn Edelsten is the brains and drive behind the COP21 Paris expedition. One of the founders of Children’s Holiday Venture at the University in 1963, Martyn is no stranger to the poverty and deprivation that can result from global conflicts and challenges.
Set up to respond to the needs of children living in German refugee camps, the student run CHV initially took these children on camping holidays in the Black Forest. Now the oldest fully student run charity in the United Kingdom, CHV works with around 120 disadvantaged children from socially deprived areas of Edinburgh.
It was his experiences with CHV that influenced Martyn’s subsequent career as he specialised in tropical veterinary science and has worked in developing countries for much of his life including Nigeria and Malawi.
I have been aware of the negative impact that climate change is having in developing countries where I worked as a veterinarian for many years.
Informed and inspired
Personal experiences have contributed to Martyn’s belief that human activity is a significant contributor to our changing climate, but both he and Tim have also been influenced and inspired by what they have read.
Martyn was, in his words,
fired up by Jonathan Neale’s book
Stop global warming, change the world, while Tim Fison, who also spent much of his veterinary career in developing countries, cites Naomi Klein's
This Changes Everything as his personal turning point plus
a nudge from old friend and teacher Martyn Edelsten.
Although as bad as anyone at being part of the problem I would like to add my gramme of weight to the groundswell of opinion rising up to the world leaders.
Beginning on 28 November, Martyn, Tim and four other riders will set of from the Bike Station, Causewayside, Edinburgh at 10am with send off speeches from 9.45am.
The only group cycling from Scotland, they will ride more than 1000km over 13 days to take their message to world leaders and to deliver their message peacefully to the conference.
The group are using the medium of the bicycle to raise public awareness of COP21 and the importance of world leaders reaching an agreement on climate change.
I am aware of the importance of the Paris summit, the need for clearly defined national commitments for action and international agreements to help poorer countries achieve their targets. The COP21 meeting in Paris will be the best opportunity to pressurise world leaders for the next 5-10 years.