Robert Swan is on a voyage to redeem the present and deliver the future to a better life.
Voyage is a grand word, one that inspires stories of heroism and purpose, and Robert Swan is on a Voyage For Cleaner Energy, in a sense, a voyage to redeem the present and deliver the future to a better life, well, at least a healthier one. There is urgency when he speaks of the need for inspiration and his catalytic actions – bubbling, accelerating and pushing people to do the right thing. “In a city that has run out of space for garbage in 2012, there is a need for inspiration,” says the polar explorer when he visited Bangalore as part of the Cartons To Classrooms initiative undertaken by Tetrapak.
His face was ruddy, partly from being too English and partly from having cycled several kilometers in what was probably an effort to show solidarity, “India is often seen as a problem, India must be a solution. If your country makes the same mistakes that the west has made there will be a serious problem,” he says as he goes on to explain the crux of his mission in India. “I am here to help industries and businesses do their bit for land, water and air. I am here to influence teachers; they are the real heroes and heroines. I am here to speak to youngsters and tell them stories of places I have visited and things I have seen.”
He breaks it down further, “It’s a numbers game. When England started out in the direction of the Industrial Revolution there was a population of about 25 million people. India is at the beginning of an Industrial Revolution and with the kind of numbers there are here, in terms of population and tonnage of waste generated you’ll can get ahead, make it a business and create jobs and wealth by doing the right thing.”
And in the foyer of Phoenix Market City, where Swan spoke of change, children were educated, and he stressed once again on hoe critical it was to catch them young. “Kids like real people, they see through bullshit – I don’t think these children will forget the Englishman who came on his bike and told them what they can do to help the environment.” On his expedition to the poles, Swan walked under a hole in the Ozone layer and his eyes and face got burnt and he could either be negative about it or do something, “I chose to be Indiana Jones for these kids and the environment.”
In India he is working with Tetrapak and Project Search, where old Tetrapak cartons are collected and recycled for a cause. He says, “We need to recycle, but recycling to help make desks and chairs for schools that cater to the underprivileged is to do something special.”
The Kyoto Protocol expires this year, but Swan is unfazed. He was a participant at the World Summit For Sustainable Development that happened in Rio, June 2012, where he observed and deduced, “It is not the leaders, but industries that count. They are taking the lead and they need to, companies need to get their act together and insist that every single supplier achieves the sustainability mission so that they can go global.”
Sir Robert Swan has been recognized as a polar explorer, an environmental leader and public speaker. He is the first person to have trekked to both the north and south poles and has dedicated his life to the preservation of Antartica by promotion of recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change. By the efforts of his company, 2041, Antartica is protected by a treaty that prohibits mining and drilling till 2041. And when the treaty expires? “It’s a hope that the last, unspoiled wilderness on Earth is used for science and peace.”