Environmentalists are nervous about climate change protections being rolled back under the incoming United States administration. However, Pavel Cenkl, Associate Dean of Academics at Sterling College in Vermont, will be expressly addressing climate change deniers as he sets out this August to attempt a record-setting 12-day, 500-mile solo run across Scandinavia. This run, dubbed “Climate Run 2017: Arctic Trail,” will both highlight what climate change has wrought and inspire conversations and action around climate change.
“Climate change impacts all of us, and we have to change our collective narrative about climate change from one of resistance to one of resilience,” Cenkl says. “Climate resilience isn’t about just one intervention, or several. It’s looking at the entanglement of infrastructure, culture, policies, and ecology, and seeing what we can do to not just mitigate our impact but to build more intentional and resilient relationships between social and ecological systems.”
Climate Run 2017 will take place on the Arctic Trail, a 500-mile route that traverses remote mountainous terrain between Norway, Sweden, and Finland—all above the Arctic Circle. Cenkl is aiming to set the fastest known time for completing a largely self-supported run on this trail, but that isn’t his only goal.
“I also want to use this run to bear witness to the rapidly changing climate in the region,” he says, “especially on its effects on local Sami communities, and on mountain cultures and environments along the way.”
During this run, Cenkl will be working with Adventure Scientists, an organization that equips partners with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to unlocking solutions to the world's environmental challenges, to provide samples for their ongoing global microplastics project. Adventure Scientists look to create a database of microplastics proliferation throughout the world’s marine and freshwater environments.
The first Climate Run took place in the summer of 2015 across Iceland. There, he completed a three-day, 150-mile solo run on ancient Viking paths along both trails and roads among rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, thermal springs, and through a high desert. His first Climate Run netted Cenkl recognition by SHIFT and as one of Vermont’s Top Ten Athletes by Vermont Sports magazine.
Cenkl says of the locations for both of the Climate Runs, “The Arctic is among the places on earth where climate change is most apparent and most pronounced.”
Cenkl has been training for his run as both a solo runner and as the coach of theU.S.’s only collegiate Ultra Trail Running Team, Sterling College’s Skyrunners. “My hope is to inspire other athletes, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds to take the initiative to preserve the lands that we love to explore and to find solutions to the challenges of climate change.”
Cenkl currently has a crowdsourced funding campaign to support his run, and he has a blog detailing his journey on the way to the Arctic Trail at www.climaterun.org.
ABOUT STERLING COLLEGE
Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College is the leading voice in higher education for environmental stewardship. The College was among the first colleges in the United States to focus on sustainability through academic majors in Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and Outdoor Education. Sterling College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and is one of only eight federally recognized Work Colleges in the nation.