Like all Editions, Adventure Activism showcases an array of adventures. But it also highlights the mechanisms through which these adventures seek change. The clearer we are about these, the better we can dream up and support impactful adventure ideas.
Our first mechanism is entrepreneurship, which typically doesn’t feel like activism. But radical businesses can be powerful changemakers. A superb example is Coalition Snow: one of the world’s only female founded and owned snowsports companies, now with a supporting podcast and magazine. We really enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation with Co-Founder Jen Gurecki. We also spoke with adventurer, maker, campaigner and investor Dhruv Boruah about how he supports entrepreneurship with adventure, and why we must further bridge that divide.
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Hutchinson and Greg Johnson
Next comes representation: who is adventuring. Especially for groups historically marginalised from adventure narratives, being represented is essential to inclusion. Enter Genny Brown, attempting to become the first Aruban woman to ski to the South Pole while raising awareness of Lyme Disease.
More explicitly, adventure can support campaigns. Nick Hayes - whose Book of Trespass draws on his own trespassing escapades to dissect the elitist system of UK land ownership, as the government moves to criminalise trespass - invites us to campaign against this regressive legislation. We also spoke with kayaker Dan Yates, who as a campaigner at the forefront of European river conservation knows how to mobilise the adventure community.
Campaigning relies on storytelling - something adventure lends itself to. This month friend of Adventure Uncovered Mike Elm tells us about their respective efforts to collect environmental stories from their tour saddles.
Relatedly, we’ve found that artists are often the most interesting adventurers, whether or not they identify as such. Art can make arguments creatively. We spoke with two photographers this month to this end. Anastasia Samoylova’s work explores landscape, and our perception of it. Benjamin Grant, Founder of Overview, sources stunning satellite imagery to visualise our impact on Earth.
Australian forest fires, from Overview Timelapse, the new Overview book
Some adventure modes morph into communities of action, aligned with specific issues. Charity communications expert and former journalist David Lyons writes about his discovery of surfing, and the surf organisations combating plastic pollution, on the island of Coll. And Michelle Parkes, Co-Founder of Plogolution, introduces us to the world of Plogging.
Adventure also catalyses personal transformation - a process different for everybody. Catherine Edsell writes this month about her career as an expedition leader and conservationist, and her current work leading women on transformational expeditions.
Running through all of these mechanisms is awareness raising - the most common, although often important and epic, ambition for adventurers with a social or environmental mission. We spoke with famed polar explorer Børge Ousland on his mission to ski the world’s largest polar ice caps.
It is important to emphasise that adventures, including those above, rarely fit neatly into one category. Our longform interview with environmentalist Kate Rawles demonstrates this. Her work as an adventurer, lecturer, writer and storyteller spans many of these categories. She also introduces a new one: adventure as metaphor, for how we must change faced with the environmental crisis.
Entrepreneurship, representation, campaigning, storytelling, art, communities of practice, personal transformation, awareness and metaphor. What needs adding? We’d love to hear your thoughts as we continue to address this question. For now, we hope this Edition is a useful, if imperfect, step in thinking carefully about impactful adventure.
This Edition will be our last of the year, although we will publish a few independent pieces and a Best of 2020 reflection. Far from winding back, this is to open up space to launch a new approach to online content in 2021 based on what we’ve learned this year. More on that soon!
Thanks so much for reading - we really do appreciate it, and as ever we welcome your feedback.
Until next time our thoughts are with everybody as winter descends.
The Adventure Uncovered Team.
We think the adventure community can support positive change. But how? This month we start mapping the mechanisms through which adventurous folk can help build a better world.
Read all of Edition 5 below...
Jen Gurecki is the founder and CEO of Coalition Snow, a women’s snowsports company designed to deconstruct the status quo. Simply stated, Coalition makes women’s skis and snowboards that don’t suck. #sisterhoodofshred She also founded Zawadisha, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide small loans to rural Kenyan women to finance their livelihoods. Zawadisha’s model is soundly pro-poor, pro-woman, and pro-environment. #investinwomen In 2018, Jen cycled across the continent of Africa, where the idea for Sisu Magazine was born. Jen serves as the Editor for Sisu, a quarterly mag whose mission is to uncover the untold stories of the outdoors. #gritandguts Jen has a master’s degree from Prescott College and dropped out of their PhD program when she realized that being a CEO was more productive than being a grad student. She’s been featured in Outside Magazine, Huck Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top 50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs. She spends her evenings recording the podcast Juicy Bits and reminiscing about the time she turned down an offer from Bodie Miller to buy Coalition Snow on the television show Adventure Capitalists. Learn more at www.coalitionsnow.com, www.zawadisha.org, and www.sisumagazine.com.
Dhruv is an Adventurer, Campaigner, a former Corporate Guy and an Angel Investor. He loves to make people step out, escape their comfort zone and challenge themselves; to influence them to not be a photocopy of their friends; do an adventure but also with a meaning, a purpose! and collect stories for their grand children. Born in the foothills of the grand Himalayas in India, he has lived all over India, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Educated as an Engineer and MBA he speaks and writes English, Spanish, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali & Russian(experimental). These days, Dhruv believes in cause driven and naturally powered adventures.
Genny was born and raised in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba and has lived in the UK for twelve years now. Prior to moving to the UK, she went to University in New Brunswick, Canada, where she fell in love with the great outdoors and got into cross country skiing, snowshoeing, white-water rafting and kayaking. In December 2021, Genny Brown will attempt to become the first woman from Aruba to ski to the South Pole. The Expedition will entail skiing approximately 120 km whilst pulling a sledge weighing roughly 60-70kg containing her supplies and tent. The conditions will be extreme with temperatures that could drop to - 50 degrees and severe winds. The aim of the expedition is to raise £25,000 for Lyme Aid UK who provide grants for people with lower incomes to get privately tested for Lyme Disease.
Nick Hayes has published four highly acclaimed graphic novels with Jonathan Cape, including The Rime of the Modern Mariner, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads and Cormorance. Each one in separate ways focuses on mankind’s relationship with the environment. As an illustrator he has produced numerous book covers including that for Lark by Anthony McGowan, which won the Carnegie Medal in 2020. He is also a printmaker and political cartoonist for the Guardian and New Statesman.
Mike Elm is a fan of journeys by bike, train and just the occasional bus or boat. He has been doing all his adventuring since 2015 without taking a flight. For the past six years he has dedicated himself to being part of the movements making the world a better place. He is a founder of the 2050 Climate Group, one of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leaders and was shortlisted for a WWF Earth Hour Hero. Most recently he has worked with Creative Carbon Scotland to bring arts and creative skills to the climate emergency. And helped create the World Forum on Natural Capital and the Scottish Forum, to bring a new way of thinking to business and government on their dependence on nature.
Anastasia Samoylova (b.1984, Moscow, Russia) is a Russian-American artist who moves between observational photography and studio practice. Her work explores notions of environmentalism, consumerism and the picturesque. Her book FloodZone was published by Steidl in 2019. Her work has been exhibited widely and is represented in many institutional collections including Perez Art Museum Miami and Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago.
Catherine Edsell FRGS is an adventurer, conservationist and global expedition leader with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. Having worked in some of the remotest areas of the planet, she recognises the importance of grassroots conservation, and has worked alongside some of the world’s most pioneering biodiversity scientists in an effort to further our understanding of the natural world. Alongside running her own expedition company, encouraging women to step into the wild, she is a published author, yoga teacher, PADI Divemaster, TEDx London speaker and an ambassador for EHRA supporting the endangered desert adapted elephants of Namibia.
David Lyons works in communications for Tomorrow's Cities, a global research programme into reducing disaster risk for underserved communities in growing cities. Three years living on the Hebridean island of Coll in his 20s cemented David's love of the outdoors, and he tries to balance his urban-focussed job with as many surfing, climbing and cycling adventures as possible.
Along with co-founder Dermot, Michelle co-founded Plogolution in 2018. A personal trainer and marketing consultant, they wanted to find a way to bring together fitness and the environment to impact change across local communities. Since then Plogolution has held over 70 large scale plogs across the UK and has plogging clubs in 34 schools.
Benjamin Grant is the founder of Overview. His books take their original inspiration from Daily Overview (@dailyoverview) - an Instagram account he launched in December 2013. With each post and story, he aims to not only inspire a fresh perspective of our planet but also how human activity changes the Earth. Benjamin's first book - "Overview: A New Perspective of Earth" - was selected as one of the Best Books of 2016 by Amazon, The Smithsonian, and the Los Angeles Times. It has been translated into nine languages so far. Grant graduated from Yale University where he studied world history, art history, and rowed on the heavyweight crew team. He lives and rides his bike in San Francisco.
Dr. Kate Rawles is passionate about using adventurous journeys to help raise awareness and inspire action on our most urgent environmental challenges. A former university lecturer, she now works as a freelance writer and activist. Her ‘adventure plus’ journeys include The Carbon Cycle, from Texas to Alaska by bike exploring climate change; Gyre to Gaia, a sailing journey with Pangaea Exploration exploring ocean plastic pollution; and The Life Cycle, a ride the length of the Andes on a hand-built bamboo bike exploring biodiversity loss. Kate currently lives in Cumbria with her partner Chris and Carter, a rescue dog from Spain. She is a keen sea kayaker, hillwalker and bookworm as well as a cyclist. See www.outdoorphilosophy.co.uk for more info. Kate is on Twitter and Instagram as @CarbonCycleKate.
With solo expeditions to both the South- and the North Pole as well as solo crossings of both the Arctic and the Antarctic, from coast to coast, Børge Ousland has firmly established himself as the leading polar explorer of our time. He started his polar career by crossing Greenland in 1986, while working as a deep-sea diver in the North Sea. In 1993 he decided to challenge the great white silence as a full time explorer. Børge has managed to successfully complete his expeditions, as a result of thorough preparation with emphasis on training, teamwork and development of equipment and nutrition. While planning new outings to remote places, Børge Ousland makes his living giving lectures, guiding trips, writing books (11 so far) and contributing to films from the wilderness. He has received several international awards for his expeditions, books and films and is one of the few speakers represented by National Geographic Speakers Bureau; a part of the National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.