Rosie Watson
Written by Rosie Watson
Published on 6th September 2020
4 min read
Rosie Watson is currently running from the UK to Asia for The New Story Run, searching for stories of new ways of living, working and meeting our needs in a time of climate crisis. She recently wrote a challenging piece on how we can use COVID-19 positively, to build a sustainable outdoor community. This month we caught up with her to ask more about the environmental aims of New Story Run.

How did New Story Run come about?

I had always wanted to do a long (at least 1 year) self-powered adventure, and it made sense to run as that’s what I love. I also wanted it to have a purpose to do with the climate crisis; it is the most important issue of our time, it is the area I had trained and worked in, and I didn’t fancy just turning that part of my brain off for so long. 

I decided to do it soon after finishing university, so planned my post-uni life around making it happen. I planned the ‘leaving’ part before I’d even formed the idea of what I was going to do! 

I chose to focus on this ‘New Story’ idea. Through my previous work and research, I’d found it’s a thing that’s missing – we often focus on the technical problems of the climate crisis, and describe everything academically and with statistics and figures. But the deeper change we need will only come about through a) making it a more emotionally engaging issue that people connect to, and b) if we have a positive vision/New Story we can aim for as well as see the beginnings of.

What’s your latest?

I’ve run through The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia. I’m now in Bulgaria

Why did you choose to focus on the climate crisis for the project?

I became interested in it just in time to apply for my degree, which was in Environment and Business. There was no 'big moment of realisation', just that I wanted to do something with my life that had a positive impact – then I realised that the climate crisis was one of the main issues we are facing. I believe that one of the main purposes in life is to leave the world a better place than what you were born into! I also had a very outdoorsy upbringing so that probably had an impact (although at one point I wanted to be a fashion designer).

I would say this adventure is more about listening and telling other people's stories. But the more we all talk about the issues and listen to each other, embracing ideas, disagreements, working stuff out, the quicker change will happen.

Why and how did you decide to focus on the climate crisis in the way you are, i.e. through sourcing stories and projects?

We desperately need to transform how we are living as human beings on the earth. Everything we do, especially how we think of ourselves as humans compared to other species, the earth, and each other (i.e. different groups), is all underpinned by a collection of narratives or stories about us and those things. It's at the root of everything, and to get the kind of transformational change we need, we need to critique and reform these stories/narratives into something that is healthier for us, the planet and all living things.

Stories are also how we connect to each other emotionally, so by telling these stories I hope to show a more human side to change that people relate to on a personal level, as opposed to just stating the data alone.

What impact do you hope to have?

From the run I want to be able to show a big diversity of versions of the 'New Story', in a way that people connect to emotionally and personally, and sparks their imaginations (and action!) for how they can bring about a better world in their own context. I want to show that that world will be more positive and fun, not one of gloom and restriction. I want to explain big, complex issues in a way that the average person can understand and enjoy reading about. I want to show the universal nature of needing and creating a new story, not just focused on 'developed' countries. And after the run, hopefully, link these all up into talks, maybe a book, maybe a film!

Are there any stories, projects or experiences that particularly resonate with you?

This is hard! One would be visiting Hambacher forest, which you can read about here. Another would be one particular day in the Alps, which you can read about here. On a personal level, crossing the channel by ferry after my first week of running was a really cool moment! New Year's eve on a mountain top with Mike and the best sunset and stars and sunrise ever, waking up covered in frost.

Has your thinking around the climate crisis more generally changed during the run?

Yes. I think I understand the root causes more in different ways. One is learning about how hierarchical thinking underpins the destructive attitude we are taking in the world, and also links all other major issues, e.g. equality. This came about from a really great meeting, which I wrote about here

I don't think about the climate crisis as one issue now - I think of it as something related to gender equality, the refugee crises - basically everything! 

I also can see more that it's so dictated by 'power struggles' between different countries that are high level and political and don't really have anything to do with the average citizen. 

Do you plan on continuing to work on the climate crisis following New Story Run? (You may not have thought this far yet!)

No idea how, but yes! I think it's something that everyone should be involved in.