The climate crisis is the world’s most pressing problem. Its transformative, political, social and cultural effects promise to go far beyond the physical ravages of a changing climate. As people who love adventure and, presumably, the outdoors, how can and should we respond?
Some responses are forced rather than voluntary, like closing business operations as conditions change. This is something Alan Stewart, head of the famed Cairngorm Sleddog Centre, recalls stoically this month.
But what else can we do?
Without pretending to have the answers, our fourth Edition gathers perspectives and ideas linking adventure with climate action.
The most immediate, and surely the minimum response should be to travel sustainably. Abby Walters outlines a number of first steps we can all take.
Not flying is a particularly impactful, albeit daunting, choice - one that Anna Hughes unpacks in her discussion of Fight Free UK, the campaign organisation she directs. An introduction to carbon offsetting by Jack Curtis and Jacques Sheehan, co-founders of environmental startup Carbon Jacked, gives us further context.
The allure of flight-free adventure can serve as a carrot in this fight, to mix a metaphor. Emma Gregg, journalist and author of the upcoming The Flightless Traveller, makes the argument for flight-free adventure through some of her own journeys - an argument taken further in environmentalist and adventurer Joshua Kian’s ode to human-powered travel.
Photo: Annie Spratt
Adventure can also raise awareness and, ideally, change behaviours. This is especially important for young people, which is why we invited Max Girardeau, Director of The Visionaries, to outline the thinking behind their radical, nature-based self-development programmes.
Climate awareness and action are still compatible with traditionally rugged adventure, as Fraser Morton’s account of the expeditions and activism of polar explorer Sir Robert Swan attests. We also spoke with Phoebe Smith and Dwayne Fields, whose #WeTwo project demonstrates that polar adventure can, and must, underpin a form of climate action that consciously connects with intersecting issues like gender and racial representation in adventure. That conversation is upcoming.
To inspire and direct climate action, we need strong stories and data - two things adventurers can help contribute. To this end we caught up with Rosie Watson, who is running mostly solo and unsupported across Europe and Asia in search of stories of climate-crisis living, and eco-adventurer and founder of environmental movement Planet Patrol, Lizzie Carr.
There is also a rich crossover between art, adventure and climate action - forming an essential cultural response to the crisis. The Wilderness Art Collective, whose artists are responding in thought-provoking, adventurous ways to the climate breakdown, embodies this fertile territory.
Photo: Patrick Hendry
Running through these perspectives is a vital point: individual action is not enough. The climate crisis requires urgent, radical, systemic change. If we are serious about supporting this, we must go beyond ‘outdoor issues’, and certainly beyond simply being ‘outdoorsy’. Our final, but arguably most important piece is an eloquent, cautionary argument from environmental advocate and writer Em Hartova.
How else can the adventure world respond to the climate breakdown? We’re sure there are many ideas and actions we’ve missed in this Edition, we’d love to learn about them. As ever, please do say hello at [email protected] with any leads.
Thanks for reading,
The Adventure Uncovered Team.
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As people who love adventure and, presumably, the outdoors, this month we explore how we can and should respond to the climate crisis.
Read all of Edition 4 below...
Alan Stewart is a lifelong adventurer and diver. He and his family run the Cairngorm Sleddog Adventure Centre in Aviemore, which closed this year because of a lack of snow.
Max Girardeau is Director of The Visionaries, which supports young people to transition healthily into society with passion, purpose and a connection to nature. You can find out more about their work at www.thevisionaries.org.uk. Max also hosts the Crossing The Threshold Podcast - conversations that journey through many of the themes explored in this article. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes or where you normally find your podcasts.
WeTwo: Phoebe Smith and Dwayne Fields
Team WeTwo consists of adventurer, presenter, broadcaster, author, editor, photographer, speaker and filmmaker Phoebe Smith and TV presenter, adventurer, explorer and naturalist Dwayne Fields. Their mission is to take a group of disadvantaged students to Antarctica, by expedition boat, to prove people from all backgrounds can be adventurers and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. You can find out more at www.teamwetwo.com.
Joshua Kian is a UK-based outdoor lover, writer and self-admitted tree-hugger. His first steps towards the realm of human-powered adventure began when he completed the 550-mile UK Three Peaks Challenge by Bike. His next and slightly more outlandish challenge was cycling from England to India and biking, hiking, swimming and climbing in every country along the way. Despite a COVID-induced setback 1,000 miles in, he’s eagerly awaiting to jump back in the saddle.