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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.