Braam Malherbe and COP17

Braam Malherbe

"COP17 is potentially the most significant meeting of people. Ever." says extreme sportsman and passionate conservationist, Braam Malherbe.

 

Malherbe will be joining Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 3Talks Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu, human polar bear Lewis Pugh, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Arno Cartsens, hip hop / rap artist HHP (Jabulani Tsambo), Yvonne Chaka Chaka and others for an afternoon of powerful environmental messages and amazing music at the Kings Park Stadium on November 27, 2011 - the culmination of the far reaching We Have Faith Act Now for Climate Justice campaign.

 

"The faith component is crucial," says Malherbe, "of course we have to have faith. We have to have faith in a sustainable future; and we have to tell people that it is not too late. The reality is that our children's generation could be the last generation of people on earth. We speak about crimes against humanity, but have we, today's adults, not perpetrated the greatest of all crimes against humanity? Namely the pollution, environmental devastation and precarious state of water supplies and food security we have bequeathed our descendants to deal with?"

 

Malherbe is somewhat pragmatic about his extraordinary sporting achievements. A competent, ambitious and fearless extreme runner, he sees running as a means to an end, to draw attention to injustice, suffering and environmental irresponsibility, and how these can be overcome with determination and involvement. He remembers clearly the decision to embark on his first ever major run: he was 17 years old and a surprising and life-changing experience occurred while at the Wilderness Leadership School in Umfolozi. An enlightened young ranger, Colin Johnson, gave a lesson on the frailty of the planet. Something about his message struck a profound chord in the young Malherbe who was left with the idea that every young person has the capacity and power to make a real difference and that the earth is in real danger.

 

With this new-found understanding, Malherbe learned that a proposed new jetty to be built into the lagoon at the West Coast National Park threatened to seriously alter the current flow and significantly affect the lagoon's unique ecosystem. Supported by his father, the 17 year-old Malherbe and school mate James Siddle ran the 532km from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town in 11 days to raise funds and awareness about this environmental predicament. They raised the R15 000 needed for WESSA to do an Environmental Impact Assessment, ultimately resulting in the jetty being built in a fashion that did not compromise the current flow in the lagoon.

 

This amazing success was a huge affirmation for Malherbe. It informed his life choices to create awareness of the plight of the environment through his ability to tackle extreme distances. He now is a conservationist TV presenter, a mentor for the youth, a motivational speaker and is hugely instrumental in a myriad of conservation projects, the fight against rhino poaching and many environmentally concerned civic organizations and NGOs.

 

He is hugely emotional when he talks of witnessing the brutal killing of an elephant in the Kruger in 1999, and in response to this tragedy organized an awareness-creation event entitled "Wild Child - Children for conservation", during which literally hundreds of children ran in relay with him over 620 km's. Valli Moosa (then Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism) welcomed Malherbe and the "Wild Children" at the end of the run, praising Malherbe and acknowledging that he was a "Prime patriotic example of what we are all capable of." These important words inspired Malherbe to continue with his mission.

 

Subsequently, Malherbe embarked on two major running projects just two years apart. The first, in 2006, was together with running partner David Grier, seeing them running the entire length of the Great Wall of China (4 218 km's) at the pace of a marathon a day for 98 days. This is recognized as a world first and funded the inaugural mission for Operation Smile in South Africa, a proactive international NGO which provides corrective surgery for children with cleft palate and cleft lip disfigurements.

 

In 2008, after major knee surgery, Malherbe, again with Grier, completed another world first by running a "Smile around South Africa". This expedition took them along the entire coastline from Namibia to Mozambique, a distance of 3278 km's. This ambitious project contributed in excess of R2.5 million to Operation Smile.

 

His next project, planned for later on this year, pairs him with adventurer Peter van Kets. They are paying homage to the great pioneering explorers of yore, by attending a special centenary race following the footsteps of Captain Robert Scott's great Terra Nova Expedition of 1910 -1912 and racing to the pole. They are planning a 750km unassisted trek into the last great wilderness to experience first-hand the highest, driest, and coldest desert on earth.

 

Their Antarctic exploration will be filmed for a documentary with a strong message about climate justice to be called Cold Sweat. They have been training in Iceland and are about to head to France this week to train on the French glaciers.

 

"We are but small, insignificant dots on this planet. But if each of us, as a collective, just each Do One Thing, then together we can reach a tipping point and make a huge difference. This builds significance! I still believe it is possible to create a human population that lives sustainably on this finite planet but we need to move quickly, and each one of us needs to lead by example" he concludes.