Climate activism on foot: Through her project, The New Story Run, Rosie Watson will document the human impacts of today’s climate crisis on foot
Adventure that Matters
Running solo and unsupported across Europe and Asia, she tells Adventure Uncovered about her determination and commitment to tackle the climate crisis through her own fresh and personal way.
Inspired by conservationist Jane Goodall, endurance runner Rosie Swale-Pope and adventure activist Kate Rawles, Rosie’s dissertation at the University of Leeds investigated how worldviews, culture and values led to the ecological crisis, and how these could be addressed to tackle it. She plans to take this further and search for stories and examples of new ways of living, working and meeting our needs in a time of climate crisis in the real world across Europe and Asia over the next 1-2 years. A fell runner, climber, wild swimmer and all-round mountain lover from the Lake District, Rosie will combine her recent running experiences in New Zealand and the Pyrenees, with her climate activism.
What came first, the run or climate activism? How did you bring them together?
It’s hard to untangle the two. I’ve been thinking of doing a huge running trip for a couple of years and I’ve always loved the idea of using your own body as a method of transport, as it’s such a great way to see the world. But I knew that I wanted it to be more than just a big physical challenge – I love these in their own right, but for a trip as long as this I think I’d get bored without a ‘bigger purpose’ and using my brain. So having a purpose will challenge me to think differently and find ways of communicating despite language barriers, giving me an extra layer of motivation.
The ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis only made it clearer that I wanted to make the run something that contributed to tackling it. I wanted to DO something, that wasn’t just sitting in an office, but combined my love of being active and outdoors, with a purpose and project I really believed in. That idea was always there from the beginning, but the recent rise of environmental protest movements and the urgency of our climate crisis spurred me on to make it actually happen.
What do you aim to do along the way regarding climate activism?
The main focus will be meeting people involved in different projects, businesses and communities across Europe, who are trying to live, work and meet our needs in improved ways which match up with a sustainable world, and tackle the climate crisis as best they can. This could be anything from food waste cafés to rewilding projects, to businesses who are restructuring their priorities away from just profit, to clothes rental companies, or to youth climate strikers. And everything in between!
I want to communicate these projects through personal stories from those involved, and photography. Combined with my own stories of adventure, I hope to communicate issues and solutions linked to the climate crisis in a fresh and personal way, that people can connect to. My vision is that my website will end up with a hugely diverse portfolio of examples of ‘hope’ and ideas from all over the world. It will portray the fact that this is a shared challenge, and we need to collaborate and share stories, so ‘communication’ and the telling of these stories will be my form of activism.
Who has inspired you to do this?
Reading Alistair Humphreys’ books about his cycle around the world probably ‘planted the seed’ for dreaming up this type of adventure. Then, reading Rosie Swale-Pope’s book ‘Just a Little Run Around the World’ made me believe it would be possible to do something through running, which is what I love! Kate Rawles’ adventures were the icing on the ‘inspo-cake’, showing that a personal adventure can also have a bigger purpose and be a force for good. She’s a hugely inspiring person, lovely to talk to and super helpful.
We’ve seen how Greta Thurnberg has reminded older generations where they’ve failed, and you’re only 24. How can your generation make a difference to accelerate change and make an impact?
Young people have a special power to create change. We’ve seen it recently with the young school strikers, at that age, you can really ‘go for it’ on the protesting front, and have a huge impact. Partly because there’s less to worry about in terms of consequences, e.g. you don’t have to worry about what employers might think, you’re not losing pay by skipping school, and the police probably won’t get brutal. This generation can use their voices to shout the truth loud and clear while being ‘untouchable’.
Then again, the ‘older-young’ people of this generation are mostly already in jobs and therefore have the power within their workplaces to make change on a company-wide level; they can be taken seriously in more spheres and actually make the changes happen. Anyone can make an impact whatever role they are in, and young people should recognise and use the power they have – at this stage of life, people often EXPECT you to think differently, have new ideas, and to question things. We should embrace that, as it’s exactly what the world needs! 2050 Climate Group, where I used to work, is focused on helping young people do exactly that.
Can adventure and the outdoors make a difference to the climate crisis?
YES! If you dig really deep into the root causes of the climate crisis, the worldview that humans and ‘nature’ are separate is something that comes up again and again. We think this is something deeply ingrained, but it is a relatively recent development in our worldview and a hugely damaging one. Restructuring how we live, plan our towns and cities, our workplaces, and how we travel – in a way that ‘mixes’ us back up into the natural environment – is essential to ‘reconnect’ us. But, so is adventure in big wild (and rewilded) spaces. We won’t be able to find our way out of the climate crisis without a thorough appreciation of the connections and feedback loops in our natural systems, and an emotional connection to our place in it – a deep love for it – and that’s something that is much easier to understand through spending time outdoors. We need to get real about what we’re facing, and what’s appropriate with ‘adventure’ and what’s not. It can be a key to success, or a curse.
For more info about Rosie’s New Story Run, visit https://newstoryrun.wordpress.com