Louis Pugh was born in England and raised in South Africa. Along Africa’s rocky southern coast, he developed a passion for swimming. After Mr. Pugh became a maritime lawyer, he began working full-time on “marine environmental justice.”
For the past 35 years, Pugh has taught swimming in every ocean around the world. He swims for more than just exercise. Mr. Pew draws attention to the impacts of climate change and the need for urgent action. In 2020, for example, he swam beneath the frigid Antarctic ice sheet to highlight the dangers of polar ice sheets melting. In 2022 he became the first person to swim across the Red Sea in the Middle East. Pew’s visit served as a reminder to policy leaders of the harm human activities are causing to coral reefs.
In 2013, Mr. Pugh was named the first Patron of Oceans for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). This role was created to strengthen ocean advocacy in global political debates, media and elsewhere.
reverse river decline
Last summer, Dr. Pugh demonstrated that humans can have a positive impact in combating environmental pollution. He started high in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and swam 315 miles across the Hudson River.
Pugh was the first person to swim the entire length of a river without the aid of fins, wetsuits, or other aid. He wanted to shine a spotlight on cleaning up the river. For decades, it had been contaminated by toxic chemicals, primarily from local industry. Local governments, donors and businesses then worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to decontaminate the river and replant it with aquatic plants.
After spending 32 days underwater, Pugh arrived in New York City. He arrived just in time for three major events held each September: Climate Week, the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Ambition Summit.
Mr. Pew used the opportunity to pressure leaders on environmental issues. “Fifty years ago, the Hudson River was one of the most polluted rivers in the entire world, and swimming like this would have been impossible,” Pugh told reporters. “In the 1970s, New Yorkers said: ‘Don’t worry!‘ And we started cleaning this river. [They] Mile by mile, town by town, and factory after factory started. And they changed the fate of this river and the wildlife that calls it home. ”
During her travels along the Hudson River, Pugh met people interested in keeping the river clean. These include Native American groups, local college swim and rowing teams, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts. Mr. Pew also spoke with politicians and business leaders.
Creation of protected marine areas
My 9-year-old sister Kaya and I are both avid swimmers. We met up with Mr. Pugh for a 5 mile run near Poughkeepsie, New York. When asked how she felt after the swim, Pugh said: . . But I feel rejuvenated. ”
Pugh hopes efforts to protect the Hudson River will inspire efforts to clean up other waterways around the world. Through the nonprofit Louis Pew Foundation, he is “appealing to countries to fully protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.” This could be achieved by creating protected areas such as national parks, he says.
Nearly 70% of the United Nations’ 193 member states have already agreed to this goal. Although Pugh is proud of his success, he admits there is still a lot of work left. He encourages youth activity and even praises small environmental choices like carrying a reusable water bottle. He said small changes add up to big results.