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Thursday 25 July 2024
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Climate / ‘Great things can be achieved in harmony with nature’ – Swiss climate campaigners visit Lerwick and Bressay

Sabine Schwoerer (left) with husband Dario (right) and their six children Alegra, Mia, Salina, Noe, Andri, Vital, all born during their epic journey. Photo: Dave Donaldson for Shetland News

FOLLOWING a short stopover, a family of climate campaigners has set sail from Lerwick earlier today (Thursday) on their 15-metre yacht Pachamama heading for Fair Isle and then Cork in Ireland.

But Dario and Sabine Schwoerer, from Switzerland, and their six children might well be back to the isles later this year as they are looking for a suitable berth to overwinter.

The Schworers have been sailing the seven seas for the last 23 years part of a life commitment to document climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

During that time, they have circumnavigated planet Earth several times, have climbed the highest mountain on six of the seven continents using only nature’s forces as well as human power.

Their mission is to inspire youth to value the beauty of the natural world and to live in harmony with nature. They visit schools to speak to pupils in each destination.

Their global climate expedition is supported by a number of organisations, including the UN Environmental Programme, Swiss army knife producer Victorinox and the University of Innsbruck.

They have been to Shetland to spend a day with Dr Jonathan Wills in Bressay who himself has been, among many other things, a vocal environmental campaigner for many years.

In 2016 the Pachamama, which is an Inca word and means much more then Mother Earth, became the first boat transiting the Northwest Passage via Fury and Hecla into Hudson Bay.

More recently, they spent a summer in the Arctic to document the rapid retreat of the pack ice as a result of global warming.

Schwoerer, a mountain guide and geographer, said they were the first sailing boat to circumnavigate Svalbard to the north of Norway in 2020, and were able to get as far as 83 degrees north, just 450 miles from the North Pole.

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He said he and his family team has been documenting the amount of plastic and microplastics in the water and found huge amount of these toxic substances in Arctic waters.

He added: “Interestingly the largest amounts of microplastics we found at the edge of the pack ice. We assume that some of this is transported there by the Gulf Stream but some has also been stored in the pack ice and is now released as the ice melts.

Click on the photo to find out more about the ToptoTop project

“As we are at the top of the food chain the release of these toxic substances is set to be affecting our health. There are papers that show that some cancers are related to the toxics you can find in micro plastics.

“We also see that the biodiversity is going down, which is scary because biodiversity is important to the planet, as it impacts on our ability to react to different conditions.”

He added that when he and his wife set out on their climate expedition more than two decades ago, hardly anybody did understand the questions they were asking as climate was not a pressing topic at the time.

“Our initial motivation to start this expedition came from me being a mountain guide,” Schwoerer said, “I saw the glaciers had started melting away.”

They set out to climb the highest mountain in all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to highlight climate change.

From that the idea emerged to travel to all climate zones not just in altitude but also in latitude, which includes climbing the highest peak in all the seven continents in a sustainable fashion.

“We try a find the top solutions for the climate and the environment and bring these solutions to schools to inspire young people to act for the planet,” he said.

“Great things can be achieved in harmony with nature,” he added.

More information including several annual reports of their work can be found here.
The Schwoerers are keen to return to Shetland later in the year. If anybody could help with a suitable winter berth for the family and the yacht, please contact them via e-mail dario@toptotop.org
Likewise, if any of the local schools are interested in hosting a visit from the climate campaigners, please get in touch using the same e-mail address.

The 50 ft Pachamama at Victoria Pier on Wednesday. Photo: Shetland News

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