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Flight of the Swan – Flying around Britain for climate change

During the week of 21 June 2021, Sacha Dench will set off on a new adventure to fly around the entire coast of Britain, powered only by an electric paramotor, in an attempt to break two world records. As Ambassador for the UN Convention on Migratory Species, Sacha has campaigned to raise awareness of the problems facing many species and habitats around the world. However, during the ‘Round Britain Climate Challenge’ she wants to make clear that climate change is the greatest threat we are facing as a society.

Sacha Dench flying over lake on paramotor for climate change
Credit: Dan Burton

To mark the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, the UN interviewed Sacha Dench, also known as the ‘human swan’ after her paramotor flight from Arctic Russia to the UK in 2016 to help save the Bewick swan. The 7000km flight, which saw her braving thunderstorms and polar bears, was an attempt to understand why Bewick swan populations were declining.

 

What motivated you to do the ‘Round Britain Climate Challenge’?

‘We realized from the last expedition that everything impacting Bewick swan populations was pretty much exacerbated by climate change and that was an issue we really wanted to focus on. In addition, I had another close encounter with climate change last year when we lost our family home in the Australian bushfires. I felt as if I couldn’t ignore it anymore.’

Sacha hopes her expedition will raise as much awareness as possible of the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in November, which is hosted by the UK, and actively engage the public in exciting climate solutions.

During her trip she will be stopping off at farms, rewilding areas, small businesses and schools in order to discover their sustainability stories and share with the world as many innovative climate solutions as possible.

‘We want to change the whole narrative around climate change, particularly for those people who look at it and think it’s this horrible scary thing or its only for a kind of scare monger. We want to try to reframe it as being this massive opportunity and show all the incredible ideas and innovators out there who are really trying to do something about it.’

What would you say to world leaders?

‘We need to have a drastic shift in the way our economy works. The Circular Economy is the only way to go. We have destroyed so much natural habitat in the world that the planet is really struggling to cope.’

Sacha chose to take action so she can share the stories and images from her expeditions in the hope that decision makers like those at COP26 will listen to what people on the ground are saying.

‘I think we need to be constantly reminded of what the real world is. These are the real people whose lives you have in your hands. These are the animals that are struggling to survive because their habitat is disappearing.’

How does it feel to fly with the birds?

‘It’s the most incredible thing ever. I’m really surprised that everybody doesn’t do it. You see the world from a completely different perspective but also, you can have the most wonderful encounters with birds.

When I was flying across Russia there was this big flocks of birds across to my right and at one point two of the birds broke away from the main flock and flew with me like I was the lead bird, and it was absolutely magical. I had similar experiences in Spain and other places with vultures.’

Sacha Dench mid-flight on paramotor
Credit: Conservation Without Borders
What can the rest of us do to help?

‘What really keeps me inspired is the fact that if you can communicate something in the right way, you can get other people on board and wanting to help as well.

We need people outside of the NGO conservation world to step up and decide that actually this is really important to them as individuals. We need to keep showing people examples and stories of the massive impact that individuals and companies and other organisations can have if they get involved.’

You don’t need to be a superhero

‘So, yes, that’s a big part of the message I try to share. I don’t want people to see the flying expedition and think, well, that’s really super and the stuff of superheroes but not something I can do. For years now I’ve have been focusing on the stories of people that I’ve met along the way and the things that they’ve offered to do to help because as soon as people hear stories like that, that’s when they start to think, well, maybe I could do something too.’

Take off!

You can follow Sacha flying around Britain HERE for real time updates and maybe even get a glimpse of the human swan as she visits important sustainability initiatives while recharging her batteries.

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