I had the chance to get in touch with a photographer and a journalist who have been biking a long way to report on climate stories from the road. Short after starting their journey they came to the Tagliamento and met my family. Even though I was not around, I managed to have a few nice exchanges with them, and I report here a short interview with Martin.
Why brought you to bike through Friuli and the Tagliamento?
Sometime in 2021, Martin and I started the project Grüne Spur, "Green Trail". Our idea was to bike from Switzerland to Mongolia and cover various issues connected to climate change and environmental issues along the way. Martin is a bike-loving freelance photographer and I am a journalist working on climate change. So we decided to combine our skills and write a book about what we could research on the way: the people that fight for a better world, the disasters that are the result of climate change, the lessons we can learn from other places. The Tagliamento was blocking our path to Slovenia and the Balkans, so to speak. And since it's one of the last remaining wild rivers in Europe, we wanted to see it for ourselves and write about the people that fight for the Tagliamento.
Photo Martin Bichsel
How did we find each other?
We started cycling in Bern on January 4th. Around the time we arrived in Venice, one of our contacts mentioned that you are an expert on the situation of the Tagliamento. So I sent a quick email to you and luckily you replied in an instant—something journalists like me both love and hate. Writing an email to a contact is often a feeling of «I got this done for today, let's see how long it will take to get a reply». But you had the audacity to reply within minutes. Joking aside, we were in the middle of nowhere – one of these places that are completely empty in the touristic off-season—and Martin was fixing a flat tire, when you called me and set up a meeting the next day with your lovely family and your sister Chiara who then proceeded to put us into contact with so many other lovely and interesting people along the river.
Are you still cycling at the moment?
We are both back in Switzerland now. After the start of the war in Ukraine, we changed our plans to reach Mongolia completely. Since we didn't want to fly, Mongolia was cut off from us—Russia and China being the only two neighboring countries. So we said goodbye to the dream of reaching Ulaanbaatar. Additionally, my mental health deteriorated in the coming weeks as I was feeling lonely and homesick and the war wasn't helping with that. Finally, I decided to head home again, while Martin wanted to continue at least to Teheran. I took a bus back to Switzerland from Sinop, on the northern coast of Turkey, after we did our last story on the victims of floods along the Black Sea coast. Martin carried on to Teheran but decided to cycle back home from there too, as Central Asia felt like a dead end—with visa-issues and hurdles of getting back without flying. He returned to Switzerland after over 12000 kilometers on the bike in September.
Photo Martin Bichsel
What are you doing now then?
After cycling, the work is only getting started. I'm currently trying to put all the different research we did on the way together into a coherent—and hopefully interesting—story. Meanwhile, Martin is selecting the right photos to underline these stories. After that, there's the job of putting everything together into a nice book. So there's still a lot of work to be done. At the same time it's refreshing and motivating to listen to all the interviews we conducted and hear the voices of active people that are trying to make the world a better place.
What is the role of journalism in adapting to climate change?
That's a tough question. On the one hand, journalism is supposed to be balanced and «neutral». On the other hand, it's ultimate goal is truth—whatever that turns out to be. And the truth is that without immediate and large-scale action, climate change will only get worse and threaten the future of our planet as we know it. So I feel it's our duty as journalists to educate the general public on the impact that climate change has on our lives—including the possibilities for remedies and strategies that can make the world a habitable place for future generations. At the same time, journalists are humans and as such we have a moral obligation to stop the harming of others—if it's in our power. So we need to change our behaviour to match what we are researching and writing about.
Are you also trying to save the world?
Everyone should try to save the world if it's in their power. But we shouldn't overestimate our own impact. I'm just a pretty unknown journalist in a rich and morally corrupt country. There's only so much I can do. But we shouldn't underestimate ourselves either. Even though it sounds a bit esoteric, but every action counts. If I decide today to not make the world worse off, that certainly has an impact. So, basically, I'm trying to make the world a better place every day—even though it's not always clear what that would require of me and even though I often fail to live up to my aspirations. As long as the good intentions are alive, hope remains.
Photo Florian Wüstholz