Lewis Pugh

On 17th February endurance swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh became the first person to swim the breadth of the Maldives to raise awareness about climate change. He completed the 100 mile swim in just 10 days.

You’ve swum the Thames, Arctic and Antarctic. Did you just fancy a break from freezing cold water?

When people think about climate change they still think about melting ice caps and polar bears, but I wanted to show the very real threat facing some of the lowest-lying coastal areas on Earth.

The Maldives will be first to experience the full force of climate change. Hardly any of the landmass is over 1 metre high, and if the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change predictions are correct they’re expecting a 59cm rise in sea levels.

We’ll not only lose one of nature's great eco-systems but the Maldivians will become some of the first very real environmental refugees.

It’s true the Maldives were the first to sign the Kyoto agreement, isn’t it?

Absolutely, and the sad thing is they’ve done almost nothing to contribute to climate change themselves but now find themselves at the front line, and will be the first to suffer directly.

Aside from the fact you’re good at it, why use swimming to campaign against climate change?

I’ve swum across the world and have seen the problems of climate change from a unique perspective.

I’ve seen the devastating impacts first hand, the melting ice sheets, lakes disappearing and coral dying.

I used to swim to break world records but if I can do anything to help encourage people to take action then that’s far more important.

Presumably the Maldives are warmer and cleaner than the Thames?

It’s actually too hot. Your local swimming pool is about 27 degrees, but the water in the Maldives is 33 degrees. It’ll take me far more energy than in the colder waters, and I burned 7,000 calories every day.

This article was first published on Newconsumer.com and written by Chris Haslam.