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Climate activist walking over 2,500 miles across 14 countries to remove his lifetime carbon footprint

Craig Cohon set off from London on January 3 and is due to reach Istanbul on June 4 (Walk it Back)
Craig Cohon set off from London on January 3 and is due to reach Istanbul on June 4 (Walk it Back)

An entrepreneur turned climate activist is walking more than 2,500 miles across Europe as part of his mission to remove his lifetime carbon footprint.

Craig Cohon set off from London on January 3 and is due to reach Istanbul on June 4, which coincides with his 60th birthday.

The 59-year-old has already walked around 2,100 miles through 11 countries, alongside 77 other political and climate activists.

Craig Cohon, 59, is walking 2,500 miles from London to Istanbul (Walk it Back)
Craig Cohon, 59, is walking 2,500 miles from London to Istanbul (Walk it Back)

The mammoth endeavour is part of the global environmental campaign Mr Cohon founded called ‘Walk It Back’, which aims to encourage international dialogue on carbon dioxide removal and to take thousands of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere.

The London-based activist, who was born in Chicago and raised in Canada, was previously a global brand manager for Coca-Cola, launching the company in Russia, as well as the co-owner of Cirque du Soleil Russia for eight years.

He said his concern for “common humanity” propelled him to embark on his walk across the continent.

Speaking to the Independent during the walk, he said: “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough as a human. I realised I had done some damage to the environment.

“I wanted to go on a listening journey across Europe to meet people where they are and understand how important climate issues are.”

Mr Cohon poses for a photo as he enters the Hungarian border (Walk It Back)
Mr Cohon poses for a photo as he enters the Hungarian border (Walk It Back)

When asked why he chose to walk thousands of miles in order to raise awareness, he said his mission is “not advocacy, but inquiry”.

“It’s not about me prophesying,” he explained. “Everyone knows the state of the climate. But I want to accelerate our connection to common humanity.”

“I am becoming more inspired by the people I meet every day,” Mr Cohon continued. “When I speak to an old farmer in Serbia who talks about how the climate affects his crops and his family, I want to do more for the climate.

“People think walking is slow and takes too much time, but it is the opposite. It connects you faster to people, to the environment, to conversations and to humanity.”

The activist has already walked approximately 2,000 miles on his ‘listening journey’ across the continent (Walk It Back)
The activist has already walked approximately 2,000 miles on his ‘listening journey’ across the continent (Walk It Back)

The Canadian businessman writes on his website: “You should really dislike me. I mean really dislike me. I’m one of those baby boomers from a wealthy country that has contributed to the climate mess we are in today.”

Mr Cohon, who currently lives on a boat on the River Thames, said he is the “first person to remove their carbon footprint”.

The activist has committed over $1 million in carbon removal infrastructure finance to remove all 8,147 tonnes of carbon he has emitted since he was born.

Committed to paying back the last 60 years of his life to humanity, he has even invested his personal pension fund in companies that are involved in carbon recapture.

And through Walk It Back, he plans to “set in motion spin-off campaigns” which will aim to remove 100,000 tonnes of carbon.

Mr Cohon said his curiosity about ‘common humanity’ inspired him to walk across Europe (Walk It Back)
Mr Cohon said his curiosity about ‘common humanity’ inspired him to walk across Europe (Walk It Back)

“My debt to humanity has been taken care of,” he said.

“I initially felt guilty when I started this walk,” he added. “But 120 days later as I enter 3,500km, that emotion is shifting to immense gratitude. I am grateful to be in a place where I can keep on learning about climate issues and how we get ourselves out of this consumer and consumption loop.

“On this listening journey, I see people from all walks of life struggling with the day-to-day. I listen to mayors, farmers, young people and old people.

“Four children walked with me in Serbia. They said I inspired them to walk, I’ve had mayors of cities walk with me. We all have something to teach each other.”