A Goldsmiths lecturer walked 500 miles from London to Glasgow to raise awareness of the climate emergency – arriving in the city as the COP26 United Nations Climate Change conference began.
Hung Nguyen, 49, who lectures in journalism, was one of six walkers in a group called Walk2COP26. They set out on October 7 from Camden Town and got to Glasgow on November 1, walking some 20 miles a day.
He said: “Walking for a solid eight hours was challenging, it got very windy and cold and we’d get soaking wet. I had to wear waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket, water resistant shoes, a walking stick and that didn’t even work sometimes as the weather conditions were quite bad, with very windy, rainy, and foggy weather. But we managed to pull through!”
Walking long distances is not new to Nguyen as he walked everywhere from a young age in Vietnam, where he grew up -until he was given a bike. He said: “My grandad and I spent hours talking when we walked some 25 kilometres a day to visit relatives. When we walk, we’re in the right frame of mind to talk and the same is true with walkers we will run into.”
Nguyen and his team stayed in remote locations or motorway service areas to save money and that had cost them £30 each per night. He said: “We’d share rooms as well; sometimes three or four people in one room.”
COP26 is the first major test of the Paris Agreement (an international treaty on climate change that was implemented in 2015). When countries negotiated this, they agreed to limit the rise in global average temperature to below 2C and follow efforts to not exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Nguyen told Eastlondonlines: “There was speaker at one of the conferences who had visited Kiribati a few years ago and locals used to say ‘1.5 to stay alive’. He was at a protest the other week chanting the same slogan and a resident of Kibrati who was there said it has changed to ‘1.5 we might survive.”
Nguyen said: “I think too much emphasis has been put on what governments and corporations can do and not enough on the agency of each of us. It’s true that we need the governments and corporations to take urgent actions but equally we need people and employees to be fully aware of the effects of climate change and to put pressure on governments and corporations to do a lot more than just keeping the current status quo.”
Statistic reports shows how transportation is now the most polluting sector in the United Kingdom and has produced the equivalent of 122 million tons of carbon dioxide
Nguyen said: “Before the walk I did lots of practise walks. For example, I used drive from my house to Bluewater, it took 15 minutes, but I walked to Bluewater instead and it took me 45 minutes, the difference was only half an hour, but it was more enjoyable, I got to enjoy the nature, run into familiar faces, taking different routes that you would not be able to take being in a car.
“This not only helps me with a change of scenery but contributes to helping the environment.”
Nguyen was allocated the role of the ‘unofficial cameraman’ that documented over 2000 photos and videos of the journey that he will soon produce into a documentary. He took footage of the landscapes, events and talks from London to Glasgow on climate change at schools, the local council and at churches.
Nguyen did not need much convincing to walk the 500 miles to Glasgow because he knew it was for a good cause and the walk also chimed with his own research on climate change.
He said: “After 19 miles my right foot was hurting so much. Only two members managed to do the whole 500 miles the other people like me did 400 miles, which was still very long and challenging.”
Leading team member of the Cop26 walk to Glasgow, Sam Baker, said: “We all need to engage on climate change outside of our normal social and professional circles. It’s a systemic issue and we need to push ourselves to understand different points of view, different challenges and work together to overcome them.”
Nguyen, alongside his team members, planted trees via an app across their journey, planting an impressive 1500 trees around the country and 315 personally planted by Nguyen.
The team’s biggest aim within this walk was to raise awareness, help the environment and highlight that climate change is a very urgent and severe subject.
The team’s final day in Glasgow was spent hosting an event that brought people from around the world who had been walking for the same cause, COP26, together.
When asked how he felt about the experience Nguyen responded: “I do not regret this experience but not sure if would do it again, purely because of timing. I would still go for the challenge but having done it once seems repetitive and not exciting anymore. However, going somewhere else without knowing the place then I’ll be willing to go.”