Thirty million in Bangladesh at risk of being displaced by climate change and rising seas
As part of his Pole to Paris campaign (a 12,000km bike ride from New Zealand to COP21 in Paris), British scientist Dr Daniel Price cycled through Bangladesh, one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Daniel’s experience in Bangladesh culminated in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported documentary, Thirty Million that premiered earlier this month at the UN HQ in New York.
The film’s message?
If, by the end of the century, global sea levels rise by one metre Bangladesh could lose 17% of its land, displacing 30 million Bangladeshis. “It’s hard for people to grasp the enormity of the issue,” says Dr Price. “It’s almost ten times the amount of people who have left Syria throughout the crisis there.”
As the opening line in the film warns ‘water gives life but can take life too’.
Watch the film below.
Adventure Uncovered caught up with Daniel to find out more about the project and what he hopes it will achieve.
So how long did it take you to make the film?
We spent just over three weeks on the ground in Bangladesh with brilliant support from the UNDP, completing editing and post-production over eight months. I was still on the road for the first four of those months. I’d cycle all day, get in during the evenings and transcribe interviews or write the script. Three-quarters of the team were in New Zealand, so we spent week on week editing over Skype, not the most effective way to work but we got there in the end.
Where did the idea come from and how did the Pole to Paris culminate in the Thirty Million?
Nearly ten years ago, I attended an introductory lecture on Earth History during my undergraduate degree at Cardiff University. During the hour, a brief synopsis was given about how the Earth system has changed through time. Global sea level change was a dominant topic, we were told that the sea we visit for our summer holidays has changed in the past by hundreds of meters, it’s not just this static flat blue world we go for a paddle in. The lecturer briefly noted that current climate change is likely to cause a rise in sea levels globally. He said for certain places this could spell disaster. Bangladesh was at the top of his list. I continued my studies from there and my PhD research took me to the Antarctic. My first job after my PhD took me to the Ross Ice Shelf as part of a team trying to improve estimates of how the Antarctic Ice Sheet will respond to a warming world and how fast this will change sea level. How the future of Bangladesh fits into our changing world still interested me and I wanted to share the story.
'If global sea levels rise by one metre Bangladesh could lose 17% of its land, displacing 30 million Bangladeshis.'
With Pole to Paris and Thirty Million, you seem to be set on raising awareness around climate change. How much do these initiatives actually inform the debate and lead to positive action?
All real change in society must be led by the people. With climate change, it seems that many are misinformed and unaware of the severity of the situation. Providing information to people about the topic in a digestible manner is an important way to combat that.
What’s the role of adventure in this? In what way does adventure impact positive social or environmental change?
Adventure can be used in multiple ways to communicate ideas, tell a story or simply engage people. The Pole to Paris project wasn’t about adventure per se but used adventure as a platform to communicate important information. As I travelled on bike from the south and my colleague Erlend ran from the north toward Paris people and the media took an interest. This gave us an opportunity to speak about a topic in which we are both well versed.
'All real change in society must be led by the people. With climate change, it seems that many are misinformed and unaware of the severity of the situation.'
On another level, I think adventure or challenges can inspire. Through my life tales of adventure throughout history have certainly inspired me, through to my friends challenging themselves in day-to-day life. When you push the boundaries personally you realise how many things are possible, you think differently, you approach things in new ways. Maybe transferring these realisations to larger society can open our minds too.
What’s next for you?
I’m at a bit of a crossroads at the moment. Time will tell what lies ahead.
'The Pole to Paris project wasn’t about adventure per se, but used adventure as a platform to communicate important information.'