YK Poudel

In a gesture aimed at capturing the attention of world leaders, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, a climate advocate from Thimphu, is undertaking a remarkable journey called “The Messenger-Ride for Action.” His mission is to shed light on the devastating impacts of climate change and mobilise urgent global efforts for mitigation.

“The Messenger-Ride for Action” amplifies the collective voice of nearly two billion people residing in Himalayan communities, who heavily rely on glacial water and bear the brunt of climate change-induced challenges.

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, a 40-year-old former actor turned environmental advocate, was inspired to embark on this extraordinary journey during a leadership workshop in New York in 2020, a city that bore witness to the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Although I have been an environmental enthusiast since a young age, it was during the pandemic that I conceived the idea of a climate advocacy project,” Jamyang shared.

Driven by an intensified sense of responsibility, Jamyang has tirelessly advocated for climate action post-pandemic, engaging with over 15 schools and colleges. “To effectively communicate my message to the youth, I cycled through 15 dzongkhags of Bhutan, raising awareness about climate action,” he said.

To underscore the perils of plastic pollution, Jamyang ingeniously repurposed a discarded plastic bottle he stumbled upon during his journey, using it to collect melted ice from Thorthomi. “The bottle has evolved into a potent symbol of climate action, while the ice serves as a poignant representation of melting glaciers,” he said.

In a span of just 13 days, Jamyang completed the inaugural edition of his campaign, reaching Lunana. Describing his arduous expedition, he recounted, “I arrived at Thorthomi after an arduous week-long journey, walking for approximately eight hours each day.”

The campaign revolves around three key messages: planting and nurturing trees, making an immediate transition to renewable energy sources, and integrating climate studies into school curricula.

The second leg of Jamyang’s journey commenced on May 2 of this year, with a focus on each continent consecutively, starting with the Asia edition. “My plan is to cycle across the Himalayas and ultimately arrive in Dubai, where the COP28 climate summit is scheduled to take place in December,” he declared.

Embarking on the next leg in late September, Jamyang’s ride will traverse through Delhi (India), Karachi (Pakistan), and Muscat (Oman) en route to Dubai. His ultimate objective is to present the symbolic bottle to the Bhutanese delegation at COP28, imploring them to address the urgent issue of climate change in the presence of global leaders.

“I envision completing the Messenger-Ride for Action in all seven continents, as it has already been two years since the journey began,” Jamyang said with determination.

According to Jamyang, it took him one week to cycle from Bhutan to Nepal. “I arrived in Kathmandu on May 10,” he confirmed.

After a brief period of rest and recovery, Jamyang and his 71-year-old father Penden Wangchuk resumed their journey on May 13 from Kathmandu. “We followed the trail taken by Tenzin Norgay and Edmund Hillary nearly 70 years ago.” 

The gruelling trek from Phakding to Lobuche, the base camp, lasted from May 16 to May 22. “I cycled whenever possible, and upon reaching the base camp, I experienced an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, clutching the bottle in my hands as I conversed with the Sherpas,” Jamyang said.

He added, “Lhakpa Nuri Sherpa, a 45-year-old who has triumphed over Mount Everest 22 times, acquired glacial ice from the South Pole glacier at Everest for us.”

Documenting the mid-way journey to COP28, Jamyang collaborated with Ben Clark, an American filmmaker and athlete who was deeply moved by the advocate’s cause.

“On May 29, I had an interview with BBC about this campaign and our journey towards Mount Everest, which called for immediate action from global leaders,” Jamyang said.

Nonetheless, the journey has posed significant challenges, such as restricted filming permits, denial of the use of an electric vehicle in Nepal, and securing sufficient funds to complete the campaign. “Despite these hurdles, we remain hopeful that more organisations and agencies, concerned about climate change and the need for urgent action, will support our cause, in addition to ICIMOD, Bhutan Ecological Society, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Drukair, Department of Tourism, and Kuenphen Motors, who have already provided assistance,” he said.

According to the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM), the Bhutan Glacial Lake Inventory Survey 2021 identified a total of 2,979 water bodies in the country, compared to 2,674 in the 2001 ICIMOD inventory. Among them, 567 are glacial lakes spread across four basins, covering a distance of 55 kilometers, with 17 of them classified as potentially dangerous, down from 25 in the 2001 inventory.

With over 70 percent of Bhutanese settlements located along these four different drainage basins, the rapid melting of glacial lakes due to rising global temperatures poses a severe threat to the population.

Jamyang’s Messenger-Ride for Action embodies a call to action, emphasising the urgent need for international cooperation and commitment to combat climate change. As he continues his journey, he hopes to inspire a global movement that will ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.