In the late 1990s, well before the term “climate change” had become commonplace, Dario Schwörer and Sabine Schwörer-Ammann noticed the ice on the Swiss Alps that surrounded their Switzerland home was beginning to drip. In 2000, the couple decided to travel Switzerland, collecting examples of people living sustainably and sharing the stories with schoolchildren.
“We saw so many good examples that we thought we really have to go global to spread the message,” Dario Schwörer recalls. The husband-and-wife team has been on the move ever since on their TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition – traveling the world to raise environmental awareness.
Earlier this month they arrived in Honolulu on their wind- and solar-powered yacht from Panama via Hawaii Island. So far, they have hosted lectures and conducted cleanups at Waikiki Beach, Kuliouou Ridge Trail and the Leeward Coast. Their entire expedition is done through walking, biking or sailing. During their sail to the Islands, they launched a survey of marine debris, which they will continue as they sail around the Pacific taking water samples for the next year. Through a collaboration with the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii, and using Honolulu as their base, they will test radioactivity levels and track garbage.
One of TOPtoTOP’s main goals is educating children by visiting classrooms throughout the world. All classes also participate in at least one cleanup.
“We want to inspire students to be active and do something positive for this planet in the future,” Schwörer says.
While their hometown in Switzerland staved off the impacts of the melting ice by constructing a wall to avoid landslides, Schwörer says that not all parts of the world are equipped for such undertakings. Along their journey, they have helped others address the impacts of climate change. They helped one community, for example, raise funds to purchase a solar-powered water-purifying system after rising sea levels decreased their drinking water supply.
“There are dramatic changes in these communities, and they don’t have the money to adapt,” he says.
Along the way, volunteers have joined them from all over the world. With them now are Nicole Bolliger (back row, far left) and Christina Hartmann (back row, second from left). Also on the expedition are their four children – Salina (7), Andri (6), Noe (3) and Alegra (2).
Although they have seen many negative environmental consequences,
Schwörer is optimistic: “Every year, we are more and more positive about the future because we see so many good things.
“It is really, really nice to do something for our planet,” he adds. “It is such a wonderful planet, still.”