The world is in a climate emergency, and the voices of the younger generation are ringing louder than ever, led by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg pressuring governments to take action. Like Thunberg, Barney Swan is on a mission to combat climate change, but the British-born 25-year-old environmentalist has taken a solutions-based approach.
Swan founded global non-profit ClimateForce in 2018 with a seven-year mission to reduce 360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before 2025 by making sustainable development solutions accessible, relevant and engaging. “Our planet is struggling to sustain 7.5 billion people. I feel a responsibility to inspire people to do more, not just to have awareness but to drive action. There’s a lot of talk about sustainability, but how do we convert that awareness into tangible things?” Swan tells us on the sidelines of The Conscious Festival by Green is the New Black in November last year.
This passion runs deep as Swan is also a polar adventurer, just like his father Robert Swan, who is the first person to walk both the North and South Poles in the 1980s, and has dedicated his life to the preservation of Antarctica through his 2041 Foundation. Every year, the Swans lead three to four expeditions, which bring together individuals, corporations and even industries, to discuss the environment and polar regions, as well as promote the use of renewable energy and sustainable practices.
In November 2017, the father-son duo, along with two other explorers, embarked on a first-ever expedition to the South Pole powered only by renewable energy sources. While the rest completed the 1,000km trek over eight weeks, Robert had to return to base camp at the halfway point as he was unable to continue. The younger Swan tells us about these polar adventures and how, as individuals, we can save the earth for future generations.
How did your father inspire you to become an environmental advocate?
Barney Swan My dad has only ever opened doors for me, but never kicked me through them. It was only when I went to do some work with him in Antarctica at age 17 that I really understood what he has been doing all these years and grasped the potential for me to also be a part of helping people. His dedication has obviously inspired me to follow in his footsteps, but I’m really coming in and doing something a little bit more specific to the solutions, bringing it back to the central goal of reducing CO2 emissions—that’s where my non-profit ClimateForce comes in.