WHO team leader cycles from Geneva to Paris

Tue, 26/07/16

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, team leader of the climate change and health team within WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, biked from Geneva to Paris to attend the Second Global Conference on Health and Climate on 7-8 July.

Along his 550 km trip, Diarmid blogged on the topic of the conference, using the ride to connect to health issues as individuals experience them – from physical activity, to nutrition, to air quality and road safety. You can see his journey from Geneva through the vineyards of the Burgundy region of France to his final destination in Paris. Below are some excepts from his blog:

Day 1: Mountains

"Everywhere is within cycling distance- if you've got the time."

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Team Leader, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization

  • Hours cycling: 9:09
  • Km cycled: 211.1
  • Metres climbed : 2755
  • Maximum speed: 66.2 km/h
  • Calories burned: 5455

The first part of the journey is over the Jura range, with views of the Alps. You really feel the temperature drop as you climb- so although it is summer I could see my breath near the top.

Temperature drops about 0.6°C per 100m altitude rise. On current trends we are expecting perhaps 4°C global warming over this century, with more at high altitude. Here, that will effectively mean snow disappearing from the Jura, and continuation of the massive glacier retreat in the Alps. In other regions, such as the Himalayas and Andes, the impacts can be worse. Accelerated snow melt can lead to the bursting of glacial lakes and flooding of surrounding areas, as well as the eventual disappearance of glaciers that act as giant reservoirs guaranteeing regular water supply. Warming and changed weather patterns can also lead to greater vector-borne disease transmission at higher altitudes.

Climbing the Jura itself was easier than I expected, and the descent the other side was great. But I really paid for the climbing on the last part of the ride.

Despite living so close I had never gone far over the other side of the Jura- the scenery is gentle rather than dramatic, but beautiful.

Day 1 destination was Beaune, in Bourgogne - famous for snails and wine. I forced myself :-)


Day 2: Energy

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Michael Pollen, American author & journalist

  • Hours cycling: 9:09
  • Km cycled: 208
  • Metres climbed : 1251
  • Maximum speed: 51.8 kph
  • Calories burned: 4374

Today was just as long but without the climbing. Still, it is striking how much food you need to take on to work physically all day. I have burned almost 10,000 additional calories in 2 days, much more than double the normal amount. Among other things I am powered by a homemade energy drink made from the excellent "miel du Maiero" organic honey from the beehives of Marina Maeiro, WHO technical officer and our brilliant conference master (among other things).

The ride is a real reminder of the difference between people in poor countries reliant on physical labour, that have high energy demand and insecure access - and those in high income countries who have the opposite problem.

Energy issues were also visible on the road. I was happy to see wind farms - then immediately saw "Non [wind farm symbol]" painted on the road. Then a sign protesting biomass use due to impacts on forests. There are clearly no simple answers - but energy efficiency, minimising pollution/contamination and promoting equitable access seem pretty good principles to start with.

My bike got compliments as I stopped for coffee this morning. "Une très belle machine" apparently. Mind you, the guy was drinking wine at 9:00 am before driving off in his car, so I am not sure I should trust his judgement.

1 more day to go. Then I need to start working..

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Categories: Travel