THE BIG APPLE: Steve Posselt approaches New York City from the south after his epic journey up the Mississippi and the United States East Coast waterways.
THE BIG APPLE: Steve Posselt approaches New York City from the south after his epic journey up the Mississippi and the United States East Coast waterways. Steve Posselt

Mississipi floods almost kill Ballina kayak adventurer

KAYAKING adventurer and climate change activist Steve Posselt has returned from an epic 2000km kayak trip, flat broke and a little disillusioned, but determined to continue his effort to shake people from their global warming "stupor".

Mr Posselt was forced to abandon his attempt to paddle the length of the Mississipi River earlier this year when after about 700km near Memphis continuous flooding made conditions on the river extremely dangerous.

The aim of the trip was to raise awareness about global warming and ultimately end up at the Paris climate change talks with a story to tell.

 

Steve Posselt on the flooded Mississipi on his epic kayak trip up the famous river.
Steve Posselt on the flooded Mississipi on his epic kayak trip up the famous river. Steve Posselt

Alone on the inundated river system, he was forced to paddle around giant-sized logjams and into ferocious currents, facing the risk of being swept under the logs and to his death with one missed stroke.

At the height of the flood north of Vicksburg, he had to negotiate logjams about three times a day.

 

Steve Posselt on the flooded Mississipi on his epic kayak trip up the famous river.
Steve Posselt on the flooded Mississipi on his epic kayak trip up the famous river. Steve Posselt

Safety wasn't just a matter of staying close to the riverbank - because in the flood there was no riverbank.

He said quitting the Mississipi voyage was in his best interests - and his family's.

He said at times he had been "pretty bloody close" to the edge.

"I could have been in a lot of trouble - I could have died, I suppose," he said.

"I thought there's not much in trying to do this for my grandkids and killing myself along the way."

The odyssey wasn't over yet, though.

Instead he bought a bike at Walmart, and rode it 1400km east over the Appalachian mountains, into North Carolina and paddled up the East Coast waterways to New York.

While the main reason for his journey across North America to raise awareness about climate change along the way, even that proved a challenge.

In the southern states he found himself in a climate deniers zone.

 

Overlooking Chesapeake Bay, on the East Coast of the United States. Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background.
Overlooking Chesapeake Bay, on the East Coast of the United States. Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background. Steve Posselt

"In North Carolina, if you're a public servant if you say the words 'climate change' or 'global warming' you lose your job, and you're not allowed to say 'sea level rise', the only word you can say is 'coastal flooding'.

"Some of the debate is absolutely crazy."

He relayed a conversation on a local radio station where the local radio host was arguing the entire solar system was heating up and therefore global warming was natural.

"You just cannot break through that, I don't know how it's going to happen."

He said like Australia, the US had devolved into a war of words between people who had done the science and were informed, and people with "their head in the sand" - but the latter were winning.

"I didn't expect the lack of interest I got," he said.

"I was quite disillusioned during the trip.

"But the conclusion I got when I arrived in Paris was this is what it's like for everyone.

 

FINISHED AT LAST: Steve Posselt strolls through Paris.
FINISHED AT LAST: Steve Posselt strolls through Paris. Steve Posselt

What we're doing is just plugging away, plugging away. There will be no heroes, there will be no starts, it's just everyday people plugging away."

Reflecting on his journey, he said frankly "it knocked the s**t out of me".

"But it's given me a platform to come back and talk about the urgency of climate change and the consequences if we don't act."

A book entitled Paddling to Paris is in the pipeline, with almost 100,000 words already written.



Bride-to-be gets wedding ring stolen

premium_icon Bride-to-be gets wedding ring stolen

Evans Head bride-to-be shares her nightmare robbery

REVEALED: Plans progress for new surf club

premium_icon REVEALED: Plans progress for new surf club

It would include restaurant, kiosk, space for lifesaving activities

Family day care to close after 'dishonest' educator caught

premium_icon Family day care to close after 'dishonest' educator caught

The Northern Rivers service will close in the coming weeks

Local Partners