THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY - HONG KONG
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong Paul Coleman, "The Earthwalker", to lecture on his extraordinary feats of walking, which have encompassed most of the earth. Since 1990, Mr. Coleman has walked 46,500 kilometres, through 41 nations, planting trees, spreading the environmental message and inspiring people to actions that are for the good of humanity. His most famous walks, from Canada to South America, from San Francisco to Sarajevo and his present walk, "The Greening the Olympics Walk", from Hong Kong to Beijing, are some of the many trips recounted in Mr. Coleman's lecture, which is richly illustrated by slides from the countries he has visited on his marathon trips.
In 1988, after seventeen years travelling the world, Mr Coleman realised that the planet's environment was in serious trouble. So he decided to give up his job as principal advisor to a member of the British Royal Family, to dedicate his efforts to the earth. Soon after, he was leading Balsa Raft Expeditions down the Amazon, wading through Piranha-infested waters, meeting the people of the forests and promoting ways that the forests could be saved. These journeys he funded himself, but eventually the money ran out and he decided to take the ancient path of walking to deliver his message to the world's people.
On 25 July 1990, with just enough money for one month, Mr Coleman began a two-year walk from Canada to South America to draw attention to the first United Nations Earth Summit in 1992. Within one month, he had no money, but was appearing frequently in the media and when he entered Mexico he was accompanied by major television personalities and the news was broadcast across both sides of the border. Within three weeks he was meeting mayors and getting media coverage and support in every town. In one town, the Mayor gave him a tree, which he planted in the centre of a roundabout, and from then on, every day, in every community, every city, Mr Coleman has planted trees. Popular support grew until finally he was speaking to thousands of people a day. The support got so great that the President of Mexico presented him with a Federal Police Escort that was to last for two thousand kilometres. This drew much more support and media coverage and soon the Mexican government unveiled plans to save its own virgin forests. At another event he planted the first of 500,000 trees in the middle of the Pan American Highway in front of a mural bearing his inaugural words and the flags of Mexico, the United Nations and Canada.
Following Mexico, the support of Presidents and national governments continued until he arrived at the Earth Summit, with tree plantings, escorts and public lectures arranged. In Guatemala there was a reception at the Guatemalan Hall of Congress, while the Costa Rican Minister of the Environment announced a new policy for the country's rain forests at a reception in his honour. Thousands of kilometres of walking on, at the Earth Summit, he was welcomed by Dr. Noel Brown, the UN Chief representative for the Americas who presented Mr Coleman with a United Nations award for his efforts and coined the phrase the 'Earthwalker', by which he has been known ever since.
On 15 May 1994, Mr Coleman began walking from San Francisco to Sarajevo to plant a tree of peace. At the time the City was in the middle of a three years siege, bombarded and surrounded by Serbian forces. Along the way, walking through the United States and Europe, he explained in numerous lectures how the earth is impacted by war and delivered the concept of 'Peace through Ecological Restoration'. UNESCO and the UNHCR supported the walk and provided assistance in the war zone. This meant that where there was a UN base he could sleep in relative safety. After being arrested six times, every time under the threat of execution, a run through a sniper zone, and a journey through a front line trench, he finally arrived at the hand dug tunnel (that is now a major war monument) leading into the besieged city. At the entrance to the tunnel, Sarajevo's only connection with the outside world, he was forced face down in the mud as three shells exploded mere meters away. Miraculously he arrived on 21 April 1995 with a tree on his back. The tree was planted the next day, 22 April followed by an address to the Sarajevo General Assembly the next day as shells fell in the background.
On 22 September 2007, Mr Coleman began walking from Hong Kong to Beijing, joining China's efforts to Green the Olympics. By walking to the Olympics, he is meeting China's people, and spreading the environmental message that China, both for its own sake and that of the world, needs to develop in a sustainable way. He has received considerable official support and is being followed daily by the Chinese and International media. With his wife and supporters he has now walked 2,500 kilometres from Hong Kong to the flood plains of Northern Jiangsu. He has walked through cities large and small, through towns, villages, and communes, hiking through rice paddies, along beaches, over mountains, down highways, through every type of environment, experiencing China's environment at its worst and at its best. Joining him on this walk is his Japanese born wife Konomi Kikuchi and others from all around the globe. The Chinese walkers have included numerous university students and Olympic Volunteers.
Mr. Coleman was born and educated in the United Kingdom in the then heavily-polluted City of Manchester. Since his 1988 transformation to a full-time environmentalist, he has represented many organisations, including as Ambassador to the United Nations' "Peace Messenger Initiative" and as the Charity Ambassador to 'The Living Rain Forest". Two Motions have been entered into the British Houses of Parliament supporting his walks including the House of Commons unanimously adopting the motion "That this House welcomes Mr Paul Coleman's walk from Hong Kong to Beijing to help to encourage China to host an environmentally-friendly Olympics in Beijing in 2008." He is also an author, with books and papers published worldwide and he recently narrated the Sony movie 'Our Planet' which premiered on the world's largest movie screen at EXPO 2005. His environmental efforts have been recognised and honoured by many national governments and Mr. Coleman is presently in Hong Kong to receive an award from the International Environmental Organisation as well as to receive a nomination for this year's Okinawa Peace Prize. Mr Coleman has delivered more than a thousand lectures, all the way from the ivory towers of Eton and the Palace of Westminster to open air crowds in some of the poorest countries on the earth.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for guests and $150 for others.