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LEWIS GORDON PUGH: An inspiration, even to the eco sceptics

PUBLISHED: 16:17 17 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:36 07 September 2010

Readers of this column know from past experience that I am just a tad sceptical about the whole climate change thing. Not because I don t understand the dangers that are inherent in mankind s plundering of the earth for his own comfort and pleasure, but b

Readers of this column know from past experience that I am just a tad sceptical about the whole climate change thing. Not because I don't understand the dangers that are inherent in mankind's plundering of the earth for his own comfort and pleasure, but because we're being conned into believing that we as individuals can do something about it, when it's really all about governments and power.

I've previously said, and believed, that no matter how hard I try to do the right thing, my contribution is about as significant as a grain of sand in the Sahara desert.

Of course I admire people like Camden's Alexis Rowell and Islington's Bob Gilbert, both of whom I am delighted to give space to in this newspaper, but who I tended to regard as valiant warriors trying to counter nuclear warfare with slingstones.

That was until I heard Lewis Gordon Pugh, the guest speaker at the inaugural Archant London Environmental Awards.

You may not have heard of Lewis, but he has a direct line to Gordon Brown and many other world leaders. That's because of the extraordinary lengths he is prepared to go to in order to demonstrate that global warming is not an imaginary peril.

Recently, he lost the feeling in his hands for four months. Why? Because to illustrate the melting of the ice cap, he swam for 19 minutes in sub-zero temperatures at the North Pole, risking amputation of a limb or two at best, death at worst. From the moment his body hit the deep black waters the pain was excruciating.

But he refused to give up until he was pulled, icicle cold, from the water after reaching his 1km target.

The last time he phoned the PM, it was from an ice flow that should have been 10 feet deep, but was now no more than three, a recession that had taken place in a decade.

Pugh's message kept us spellbound. Like Shackleton and Captain Scott, he is a great Arctic explorer. But what he is discovering is that the once great and impenetrable ice barriers of polar regions are melting before his very eyes.

I've seldom heard such an impassioned speaker, and I'm not quite so cynical after an hour in the inspirational company of this brave and extraordinary man.

Geoff Martin


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