Lewis Pugh, a University of Cape Town alumnus and endurance swimmer known for swimming in sub-zero waters, was invited by Queen Elizabeth II to deliver a speech on the topic of protecting the world’s oceans at Commonwealth Day on Sunday.
Pugh has uniquely completed a swim in every ocean in the world, including the freezing cold Arctic, where he swam 100m in sub-zero temperatures. Swims in freezing waters such as these have led to him being dubbed the “Human Polar Bear”.
The service, which took place at Westminster Abbey at 1pm on Sunday, marked the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Nations. The association is perfectly placed to work to revive the health of the world’s oceans and invited Pugh, who shares their passion for protecting our seas and their inhabitants.
Pugh also runs his own Lewis Pugh Foundation with a mission of protecting the oceans of the world from further exploitation.
The event was attended by members of the Royal Family and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May along with high commissioners from across Commonwealth countries and other dignitaries.
Pugh, who is also the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Patron of the Oceans, pointed out that almost every Commonwealth nation is a maritime one, many of them island nations, and ones which all have “a deep affinity with our oceans”.
He also said that after his long career of endurance swimming in oceans for 32 years, he has seen the change in our seas up-close.
“Three things have come together to create this perfect storm: climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution. When I first swam in the Arctic, the water was 3°C. When I swam there recently, it was 10°C. And that is right on the edge of the Arctic ice pack.”
His speeches focused on our responsibility to make a change, as what we do now will impact not just every person on the planet and future generations, but the entire animal kingdom.
Pugh brought attention to the damage our environment is and has been suffering, and how the dwindling resources are provoking conflict around the world.
“So, when we protect our environment, we foster peace,” he said.
His speech was passionate and carried clear messages that addressed the issues we as a world need to tend to in order to change the destructive path that we are on.
He ended his address with, “I would like to leave you with one final thought: It is the moments which challenge us the most that define us. We stand at a crucial moment in the history of our planet. So we must dive in together, and without reservation, in order to protect our oceans. Let this be the Commonwealth’s gift to the world. Thank you.”
See Pugh’s full speech below: