Moreland Olympian highlights climate action

June 8, 2021 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

Local Moreland Olympian Rhydian Cowley was interviewed by Ticker News recently. He highlighted the importance of athletes in their brief time in the public spotlight to advocate for climate action to keep our planet habitable in response to the climate crisis.

Rhydian Cowley is a champion Australian race walker. He competed in the 2016 Olympics for Australia and will be soon attending the Tokyo Olympics as part of the Australian Olympic Team. He will be participating in the 50km race walk event, one of the longest, most gruelling of Olympic events.

Rhydian is also a Sports Environmental Alliance ambassador which seeks to empower sport to do more in reducing sports carbon footprint, and is also a member of the Ecoathletes international organisation.

Rhydian Cowley articulates that much of the value of individual actions is the grassroots moment it builds for bigger climate action in government and organisational policy-making, and how it can scale when many people take action.

“I think there is a role for sports to play in communicating not only issues of what the climate might look like in future and how that will impact sport but also actions that athletes and sports clubs and fans can take to address climate change.”

“I think its important for me to use that little bit of time in the spotlight to explain what I think we should do. Fortunately I’ve got good support from the Sports Environment Alliance, and there is also a group called Eco-athletes which is more internationally based.”

The Olympics have already been deferred one year.

Covid cases are continuing to pose a problem in Japan, but the IOC and Japanese Government are adamant the games will go ahead with Covid safe precautions and bubbles for the athletes. This is despite a majority of Japanese public opinion being against the Games going ahead. Due to the Covid pandemic all the sports will be performed in the absence of crowds.

Rhydian Cowley has recently received his second vaccination shot to help protect him on his journey to Tokyo for the Olympics.

Athletes may also have to put up competing in extreme heat. A recent study highlighted that Climate change could push temperatures at the Tokyo Olympics to the ‘danger-zone’ for athletes.

Climate Change has already impacted the location of some Olympic sports events such as Rhydian’s race walk event. Due to the high temperature and heat conditions expected in Tokyo the marathon and walk events have been moved 800 kilometres further north to slightly cooler conditions in Sapporo.

“We are expecting potentially hot and humid conditions in Sapporo, and have been preparing accordingly. I know if I walk my best race, a top finishing position is in reach, so my focus will be on getting the processes and preparation right so I do have my best possible race. Australia has a strong history in the 50km walk, and I hope to continue this legacy.” said Cowley in an Instagram post.

Ryhdian has had to restrict some of his training through the 4 Melbourne pandemic lockdowns, as well as working fulltime. Lockdowns haven’t been easy on athletes preparing for the Olympics.

Asked how ordinary people can reduce their climate footprint Rhydian Cowley responded:

“Obviously everyones circumstances are slightly different. So what may be achieveable for one person, one family, may be more difficult for others. Simple things you can start with, and people may already be doing them, would be to look at transport. Whether there is a chance to change a drive or a flight to catching the train, walking or riding a bike. Looking at food, perhaps introducing a day a week eating vegetarian, or composting food waste, buying food locally. There are lots of different options.

“One resource I’ve found really useful is the Global Climate Pledge which gives people a few short bits of information about things they can do to start with. It’s important for people to talk to each other about it…and encourage team work and team action. I think you end up having much bigger impact than just doing these things by yourself, and not talking to anyone about your actions”

As an international athlete “its a little bit hard to avoid the emissions from planes, but what you can do is to try to minimize how much you are flying. So for example, if you are flying over to Europe, you may stay in Europe for a longer period of time and catch a train around, or drive a low emissions vehicle around different competitions or training venues you might have there.”

“Particularly for athletes, talking to fans about what they are doing, actions they are taking, can encourage fans to come on that journey with them. I think that really allows athletes to multiply there impact, more than just taking those actions themselves.”

“Some critics say flying around on planes makes you a hypocrite but as long as you are taking action and trying to empower others to take action, in that case I’d rather be a little bit hypocritical than not take any actions at all and still be contributing to climate change.”

There is huge money invested in the Olympics going ahead, much of it relying on revenues from broadcast rights. On the positive side, the Olympics this year may provide a much appreciated diversion and entertainment for billions of people still in lockdown and coping with the continuing Covid pandemic. This value of entertainment for us all should not be underestimated. The Pandemic may make us physical distance and suffer in our individual crisis stories but celebration of sports bring us all together as a global community.

The International Olympic Committee is also committed to sustainability, and is a signatory to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. World Athletics also has a sustainability strategy and a net zero emissions by 2030 goal.

The Australian Olympic  Committee also a sustainability plan and in April 2021 became the 50th member to join the Sport Environment Alliance.

Rhydian Cowley commented, “The important thing for those organisations is to follow through on their commitments, make it easier for athletes to reduce their sport related emissions, and engage their fans on the journey to sustainable sport.”

If the Tokyo Olympics go ahead as planned we hope they can be conducted in a Covid-safe manner and do not place additional strain on the Japanese medical and hospital system.

We wish Rhydian Cowley every success in the 50km race walk event, as well as all the other Australian athletes competing at the Olympics, and appreciate his continuing advocacy for climate action both in sport and here in Moreland.

You can read also Moreland Star’s recent profile on Rhydian Cowley on his selection as part of the Australian Olympic Team on Facebook.

Entry filed under: climate change info, news. Tags: , , .

Submission: Moreland Council Budget 2021/22 Prime Minister urged to increase climate action

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