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Global Warming Activists Run Sahara, North Pole Marathons


A South African man and his British friend have launched a campaign to get people around the world to help fight global warming. They call it the EarthFireIce campaign, and they want people to log onto their website and pledge to stop using a hair dryer, or turn down their heat, or walk more and drive less. To kick off their campaign and raise awareness, the two founders have taken part in the hottest and coldest marathons in the world. Catherine Drew caught up with them in London after they ran in the Sahara marathon and before they traveled to compete in a race at the North Pole.

This is not a jog on the beach. It is the Sahara Marathon, maybe the toughest race in the world. Even in the winter, temperatures can easily rise to over 30 degrees Celsius. But each year a few hundred runners come to Algeria to compete for charity

The race is held to raise money and awareness for the Saharawi people, refugees who were forced from their land in western Sahara 30 years ago. They continue to live in refugee camps

This year, South African Ed Stumpf and his British colleague Sean Cornwell were there in a bid to kick-start what they have called the EarthFireIce campaign against global warming.

Cornwell says desertification caused by global warming will mean that more people could find themselves suffering the harsh conditions endured by the Saharawi people. But [he says] individuals in Europe and elsewhere can do something about it.

"There's a very common perception that only governments and businesses can make any difference in the climate change arena,” Cornwell says. “If an individual wants to make a difference, they [think they] have to make these huge enormous sacrifices in their life – like I'm never going to fly again, I'm going to live in a hippie commune or something [like that]. And we're trying to show exactly the opposite: actually you don't have to make these huge sacrifices, and yet you can still have a significant impact."

While Cornwell and Stumpf have put around $20,000 of their own money into the campaign, they have attracted some sponsorship and hope more companies will support them.

People can log on to their website to make a pledge to do their part to fight global warming, and invite family and friends to do the same. Stumpf says what the team really wants is not money, but action.

"Seventy five percent of the world's CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions come from the first world, and yet the affects are far and away the most severe in the developing world,” he says. “And a short trip, even our trip to the Sahara, really pushed home that point. It's quite obvious: what would these people do if global climate changed?"

The EarthFireIce founders hope as many as one million people will join the campaign – which they believe is the first to target individuals.

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