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Carbon copying

Tim Harvey proves it’s possible to go fuel-free

BY Lauren McKeon
Photography courtesy Tim Harvey

Tracing Tim Harvey’s route around the world is like trying to wrap your mind around one of those numbers with too many zeros: surreal and, in many ways, unfathomable. It’s not so much that the Vancouverite completed the 42,000- kilometre loop, but that he made the 27-month trek without burning a drop of fossil fuel for transportation purposes. Relying strictly on human and wind power, the journalist-filmmaker made it across five continents and two oceans carbon-free. “The world,” he reflects, “infused me, formed me and empowered me.”

It also inspired him to document his journey in dozens of dog-eared notebooks. Those details are now being turned into a book, Two Feet and a Heartbeat, which will be released by Harbour Publishing before the end of 2008.

The beginning of Harvey’s remarkable journey started—in his mind at least—in 2003, when, at 25, Harvey returned from El Salvador. “My inspiration,” he says, “came on the heels of a tragic seven months doing foreign-aid work.” There he witnessed the country’s embattled environment as part of his stint with the Gaia Project, an international partnership between groups in that country, Canada and Bolivia.

While he was there, his close friend, a 24-year-old dedicated environmental activist, was murdered in what Harvey believes was a targeted killing. The night she died, Harvey decided that a mission would come to define his life; he just wasn’t sure what it would be—yet. But upon returning to Vancouver—and seeing the rampant and unconscious over-consumption—that mission began to take shape. “Every society,” he points out, “even the wealthy first world, is headed for the depths to which El Salvador has fallen, as we exhaust the world’s resources and shift the global climate.”

Healing and sustaining the mind, body and planet became facets of a single issue for Harvey: healthy, holistic living for everybody. To promote this cause he decided on a self-propelled trip around the world. The next year saw Harvey preparing for his quest by going through gruelling training with wellknown Canadian adventurer and explorer Colin Angus.

Whipped into shape and ready to prove that it could be done, Harvey set out on his Vancouver-to-Vancouver trip on June 1, 2004. Crossing the globe without the use of oil had him hiking through the Arctic, cycling through Russia, Europe and the Americas, and sailing and rowing across the Atlantic.

Along the way there were plenty of dangers—a near drowning in the Bering Sea, frostbite and bandits in Russia, jail time in Panama and recurring bouts of malaria throughout Latin America. However, Harvey’s toughest and most bittersweet moments came when he had to say goodbye to those who touched his life—and kept him going—during the 11 legs of his journey. From those who stayed with him for months Carbon copying Tim Harvey proves it’s possible to go fuel free by Lauren McKeon to those who put him up for a night, Harvey’s mission inspired countless people to believe one great act can make the right impact.

While inspirational, Harvey’s mission was also a daunting one and even he admits that he was tempted to throw in the towel as “adversities piled up in my way, as I split with former teammates and as I kept running out of cash.” But the idea of giving up was fleeting, Harvey adds, because deep down he had an obligation—to his supporters, to himself and, ultimately, to the world.

And so, at 2 a.m. on November 12, 2006, through heavy rain, on a crippled bicycle, Harvey returned home, scarcely able to believe he’d achieved his dream.

Now 30, Harvey is gearing up to cross Canada by bike and train to promote his upcoming book. Following that, Harvey is planning his next zero-emissions adventure: a round-the-world sailing trip tentatively set for 2010 that will promote the importance of keeping the planet’s oceans plastic-free.


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