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“Great things can be achieved in harmony with nature” – Swiss climate campaigners visit Shetland Islands

Publication: Shetland News

Swiss climate campaigners and their six children on he boat holding their charity Top to Top banner
Sabine Schwoerer (left) with husband Dario (right) and their six children Alegra, Mia, Salina, Noe, Andri, Vital, all born during their epic journey. Photo by Dave Donaldson | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

Following a short stopover, a family of climate campaigners has set sail from Lerwick at the beginning of July on their 15-metre yacht Pachamama heading for Fair Isle and then Cork in Ireland.

But Dario and Sabine Schwoerer, from Switzerland, and their six children might well be back to the isles later this year as they are looking for a suitable berth to overwinter.

The Schworers have been sailing the seven seas for the last 23 years as part of a life commitment to documenting climate change and biodiversity loss.

During that time, they circumnavigated planet Earth several times and climbed the highest mountain on six of the seven continents using only nature’s forces as well as human power.

Their mission is to inspire youth to value the natural world’s beauty and live in harmony with nature. They visit schools to speak to pupils in each destination.

Their global climate expedition is supported by a number of organisations, including the UN Environmental Programme, Swiss army knife producer Victorinox and the University of Innsbruck.

They have been to Shetland to spend a day with Dr Jonathan Wills in Bressay, who himself has been, among many other things, a vocal environmental campaigner for many years. In 2016, the Pachamama, an Inca word that means much more than Mother Earth, became the first boat transiting the Northwest Passage via Fury and Hecla into Hudson Bay.

More recently, they spent a summer in the Arctic to document the rapid retreat of the pack ice as a result of global warming.

Schwoerer, a mountain guide and geographer, said they were the first sailing boat to circumnavigate Svalbard to the north of Norway in 2020 and were able to get as far as 83 degrees north, just 450 miles from the North Pole.

He said he and his family team has been documenting the amount of plastic and microplastics in the water and found huge amount of these toxic substances in Arctic waters.

He added: “Interestingly, we found the largest amounts of microplastics at the edge of the pack ice. We assume that some of this is transported there by the Gulf Stream, but some has also been stored in the pack ice and is now released as the ice melts.

“As we are at the top of the food chain, the release of these toxic substances is set to be affecting our health. Some papers show that some cancers are related to the toxins you can find in microplastics.

“We also see that the biodiversity is going down, which is scary because biodiversity is important to the planet, as it impacts our ability to react to different conditions.”

Top to Top yatch with climate campaigners family
Photo by Shetland News | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

“We also see that the biodiversity is going down, which is scary because biodiversity is important to the planet, as it impacts on our ability to react to different conditions.”

He added that when he and his wife set out on their climate expedition more than two decades ago, hardly anybody did understand the questions they were asking, as the climate was not a pressing topic at the time.

“Our initial motivation to start this expedition came from me being a mountain guide,” Schwoerer said, “I saw the glaciers had started melting away.”

They set out to climb the highest mountain in all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to highlight climate change.

From that, the idea emerged to travel to all climate zones in altitude and latitude, which includes climbing the highest peak in all seven continents in a sustainable fashion.

“We try a find the top solutions for the climate and the environment and bring these solutions to schools to inspire young people to act for the planet,” he said.

“Great things can be achieved in harmony with nature,” he added.

The 50 ft Pachamama yatch at Victoria Pier
The 50 ft Pachamama at Victoria Pier Photo by Shetland News| Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

More information, including several annual reports of their work, can be found here.

The Schwoerers are keen to return to Shetland later in the year. If anybody could help with a suitable winter berth for the family and the yacht, please contact them via e-mail
Likewise, if any of the local schools are interested in hosting a visit from the climate campaigners, please get in touch using the same e-mail address.