Climbing for the Climate – A Commitment to Clean Air

 This week I started I challenge that I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete…

Smog Rising over Santiago

The Background

I’ve been running for 8months now in the mountains surrounding my home in Santiago, Chile. It’s mid winter here and it’s rained only twice since I arrived. The ski fields are dry and my lips are cracking in the thin air up at 1,000m where we live.

Day 4 – Sunrise on the “Cow Loin” Ridge
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Day 6 – A lone carancho framed in snow clouds

Santiago suffers badly from air pollution and is one of the worst capital cities in South America on this index. The colder temperatures of winter presses this contaminated air down into the lowest altitude reaches of the city, where the poorest people live: Their babies, small children and elderly being admitted to hospital each June and July with respiratory related conditions.

The Andes mountains which sweep around the city, blocking the free flow of air, are part of the reason for the contamination. Other problems include the industry allowed in the heart of the city, the insufficient provision of quality public transport, the lack of bike lanes and poor recycling infrastructure.

Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago
Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago

The government, the President; Michelle Bachelet and the Environmental Minister; Pablo Badenier Martínez have a lot to answer for.

But it doesn’t stop there….There’s an even bigger culprit really.

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Day 9 – Cerro Provincia 2,700m
Day 12 – A volcanic cauldron effect from rising cloud / Se pareció un volcan en el filo de Pochocon (Manquehue atras)

The Individual

The singular acts of individuals, will be the main reason for the reduction in contamination in this city. The energy, effort and commitment involved in my climbing challenge, won’t do anything to change the air quality in Santiago. It does, however, show a parallel to the strength of mind needed to take seriously our commitments and responsibilities with the environment.

Choosing a smaller car, to share a lift to work, to eat just vegetables once a week, to recycle all the shit we buy, to take life slower and arrive by bike – these are the changes that are needed – regardless of whether we believe the man on the other side of the fence is making the same effort. Such proactively is what draws the line between negligible and nothing. You can’t build on nothing but a lot of negligible eventually makes a difference.

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Day 12 – Above the Flats of Javier trying to get a decent shot of the smog

The Challenge

This month I will try to climb 31,000m above the city – 1,000m of elevation gain each day – to draw awareness to the tragic irony in Santiago that we breathe better when we escape into the thin air, and to show the level of effort needed to try and combat such a problem.

So I’m going into the mountains this month: to breathe some better air; to take pictures of the contamination and have a personal stab at making a difference.

Day 18 - Back on top Provincia 2,700m - this time in the snow.
Day 18 – Back on top Provincia 2,700m – this time in the snow.
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Carbon footprint 0 recycling


Follow my progress from the Twitter feed on the home screen or the Facebookpage. Find smog pictures, facts, and info. about we can make changes on a personal level to reducing our waste, cutting our emissions and doing our bit. Share with #nosmog.

Happy Trails. Matt Maynard.

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