An army for cleaning

Monaco - South African born modern day explorer Mike Horn says he has laid the foundation to build the biggest army on the planet by taking young people around the world and show them what they really need to fight for.

He has just returned to his home in Switzerland from his four and a half year Pangaea expedition, for which he used a specially built 30 meter yacht to carry twelve groups of teenagers - nearly a hundred in total - and a scientist to twelve ecological hot spots on the planet.

Horn said in Monaco, where he was welcomed by Prince Albert, the world press, sponsors and members of the Young Explorers Program (YEP), that this was not the celebration of the end of an expedition, but the start.

"I have seen what the YEP can do. We have created a movement - a family - and that movement needs to go forward. Now we want the world to get involved.

"This is the first stage. I needed a solid foundation around the world. I have invested my knowledge and experience as an explorer in the biggest energy source on the planet. An untapped source.

"The picture is taking shape. I have left a little bit of Mike Horn in all these youngsters. So watch out!"

Horn told News24 that he wants to involve South Africa a lot more in his international projects. "I want to open a Mike Horn Centre for Young Explorers in South Africa and recently did some work with Morne du Plessis."

One of the young South African YEP members, Mikayla Bader, was chosen from fifty that attended the homecoming to address the big news conference in the Monaco harbour.
She said it was a shock to learn how rapidly the active layer above the permafrost is chaning because of human influence, like carbon. We saw the change and it has given us all the incentive we needed."

At the official dinner in a 60 000 square meter hotel in Monaco, some of the YEP members gave testimony. "In just a week or two, my whole life has changed", said one. "We don't just dream anymore, because we now know everything is possible - we can do it and we want to fight for it," said another; and "Now I know which road I want to take".
According to dr. Roswitha Stolz, who as a University of Munich scientist spescialising in global change and who accompanied the young explorers as their full time teacher, everybody learned a lot from this experience.

"You cannot teach someone everything in a week or two, but we have interested them and they have started an interaction that have already created a remarkable scientific community at global level.”
Horn is adamant about future expeditions like this one. "When you sail for three weeks on end through a sea full of plastic - a continent of plastic - you'll know what I am talking about. People don't see this, and what they don't see, they don't care about.

"To clean up, that is going to be my focus. I am not crying wolf, because I am not pessimistic. We need to help those companies that want to help the world; give them something to work with, because most of them want to help, but just don't know how."

Horn said his Mercedes-Benz powered boat, Pangaea, which he likes to call the "4x4 of the seas", has become too small. "We need sustainable projects, money and eighteen months to build a much bigger sailing boat that can cross the Atlantic in three days, so that we can spend more time on conservation."

If sold to one of the sponsors, the aluminium hull of the boat may even end up as Nestlé Expresso capsules.

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