Unicyclist on a long ride to bring attention to climate change

MARQUETTE – Canadian Joseph Boutilier wanted to make a statement about climate change, but instead of opting for walking on a street corner with a ho-hum sandwich board he chose to embark on a 3,000-mile unicycle ride.

His route is from the west coast of Canada to Ottawa, Ontario, to call for political action.

Boutilier, 24, left April 5 from Victoria, British Columbia, and is about two-thirds through his journey, staying at motels, campgrounds and homes along the way, He made a stop recently in Marquette.

Riding this unusual mode of transportation has its purpose.

“A unicycle is just something that’s a little more noteworthy,” Boutilier said. “It’s kind of a good eye-opener. It’s also an analogy there, I think. We have only one world and one chance to really make sure that it’s protected and sustainable.”

The analogy extends to climate change being a balancing act as well between the economy and industries, making sure greenhouses gases aren’t out of control, he said.

Although he acknowledges climate change is a global problem, he said Canada is one of the worst nations in the world based on population.

“As a Canadian, obviously, I feel a moral obligation to make sure that we’re playing a part,” Boutilier said.

He also acknowledges there still are climate-change deniers, but doesn’t have an answer as to why, although scientists, environmentalists and financiers believe in it.

That’s why he’s taken to the single-wheel way of transport to get noticed and to get the word out.

“It’s a great icebreaker, for sure,” Boutilier said. “It’s a lot of one-on-one conversation with folks.”

Again, there’s the analogy – maybe unintended – with that one-on-one talk on one wheel.

Obviously, it’s not the easiest way to make a trek lasting thousands of miles, and it’s something Boutilier had to learn before he left. He also has to carry a backpack that weighs more than 65 pounds, which is more than half his weight.

“It’s pretty clunky,” Boutilier said.

However, riding a unicycle has its physical advantages, with him being in a standing position.

“So you just fall on your feet most of the time,” he said. “I’ve had a couple good tumbles since I left, though, including falling on my face. “

Boutilier decided to dip into the United States beginning in International Falls and heading across the Upper Peninsula before traveling back to Canada. And although he could take scenic back roads, flat paved highways have their allure for a unicyclist.

“Those are all good things for a unicycle,” Boutilier said.

Boutilier is aiming for a Sept. 15 arrival in Ottawa where he can help make climate change a priority issue in advance of the next federal election.

More information about Boutilier’s ride can be found at www.unityfortheclimate.ca.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.