Guim Valls Teruel talks of a cultural revolution when identifying what is needed to address the climate change issue, which seems to be capturing the imagination of so many these days.
He asks questions like, “Does everybody really need a television?” and “Are people really happy buying stuff?”
To spread his message, Mr Teruel, 33, an athletic Spaniard from Barcelona, has embarked upon a worldwide adventure through five continents on an electric bicycle. He reached Phnom Penh last week and, prior to an interview, was due to set off for Thailand on Monday.
“It’s a really good way to promote the environment in a way that gets really close to people,” he said in a recent interview, his calf muscles noticeably toned from over five months on the road.
Mr Teruel set off from Beijing in early June loaded with 40 kg worth of essential supplies and has since made his way through South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. To recharge his bike’s batteries—which he says give him a boost during times of fatigue or on uphill terrain—he plugs in a portable solar panel and waits about five hours at the side of the road while they recharge.
Upon departure from Cambodia, he will pedal his way through more of Southeast Asia, Australasia, the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and the Americas before ending his journey in London for the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games. Sea crossings are made by hopping on board giant ocean liners, or passenger ferries if they exist, he said.
By attracting media attention, Mr Teruel hopes his message in support of alternative transport methods and energy conservation will be heard far and wide.
“We’re not going to solve the climate change problem. But we can help a little bit,” he said.
Mr Teruel is riding a carbon-framed, custom-made Wisper 905. Wisper, a British-based bicycle manufacturer, has sponsored much of the project alongside Now, a Web design firm from Spain, and Osso, a Spanish clothing brand.
Along with his custom-made bicycle, Mr Teruel says that mental strength is fundamental to his mission’s success. But so is financial backing and commitment from investors—who have yet to jump on board and provide significant backing, despite high levels of media interest in his journey.
“At the moment there’s nothing. I just keep pedaling,” he said. “My main goal…is to make people consider this bike as an option.”
Mr Teruel says that in countries such as Cambodia, where a strong emphasis on economic growth has only emerged relatively recently, people should look at developed nations and learn from their mistakes: driving too many cars and consuming at rates beyond what the environment can withstand.
What’s more, if the demand for electric bikes increases, the price for the technology will drop, he said, adding that the cheapest electric bicycles retailed at $100.
“Learn from that and progress in a different way. Because, in 30 years, you are going to have the same problem,” were his words of advice for Cambodia.
He admits that the electric bicycle could only claim environmental friendliness if the electricity is generated through solar power.
“If everybody in the world starts to ride an electric bike, then we’ll have another problem,” he said, noting that grid power is mostly a byproduct of coal-fired electrical power stations.
In the long term, Mr Teruel wants to set up his own association promoting electric bicycles across the world.
But for now he must keep his eyes firmly fixed on his next destination.
“At the moment I just need to survive,” he said.