Adventure relies upon wild, natural places. Many of these are under threat as a result of human activity. We also need societal stability to allow us to travel and explore safely, which is often threatened by environmental damage. Social responsibility aside, this means that any adventurer has a personal stake in the state of the world, and there is a powerful argument for such people to become environmental ambassadors. That is our mission here at Call to Adventure.
There’s no doubt that we’ve made some quite frankly incredible progress on issues such as civil rights, animal rights, personal safety, education, poverty eradication. Stephen Pinker's book 'The Better Angels of our Nature' for instance paints a convincing picture that global violence is steadily declining.
But unless you’re living in a cave (which, if you’re a die-hard adventurer, isn’t all that implausible) you know that we face two unprecedented environmental challenges. These are:
- The climate crisis. We have been burning fossil fuels for over a century now, and this is causing global temperatures to rise, plus a whole host of other destabilising effects. Climate change is already affecting millions of people and putting natural systems under a lot of stress.
- The biodiversity crisis. We are now in the Anthropocene: an era defined by human activity. Huge changes to land use, extraction of natural resources and application of chemicals are just a few of the ways we have affected life on Earth. Ecosystems are essential to our survival, but currently, we're not doing them any favours.
Call to Adventure will cover these challenges in a series of articles and podcasts. We exist to help spur environmentalism and social responsibility through the unlikely medium of adventure.
We love pristine places, but they are vanishing rapidly. How will the climate crisis affect the places we as adventurers know and love? Glaciers are the most visually compelling example, as they recede at a staggering rate. For instance, one adventurer (Will Gadd) describes ice climbing on Kilimanjaro, an expedition no longer possible as the ice has melted away. Meanwhile, the Arctic Circle is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and is experiencing rapid ice melt, permafrost thawing and even wildfires – none of which are friendly to adventurers.
Effects are not consigned to above water. Coral reefs are also early victims of climate change. Ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures can also lead to coral bleaching: the Great Barrier Reef, once renowned as the most awe-inspiring coral reef in the world, has suffered three major bleaching events in the past five years. For anyone that has had the privilege to dive on coral reefs, knowing that they could soon be a thing of the past is heart-breaking.
We also have to think about getting to places. For instance, if a country is experiencing floods or famine, it probably isn't going to be too welcoming to travellers using up its precious resources. Natural stressors can often lead to civil unrest; for instance, some believe that climate-induced drought was a contributing factor to the start of the Syrian civil war. If we want the world to remain a largely open and welcoming place, we have to focus on the environment.
Everything we do leaves some sort of footprint, and adventuring is no exception. A recent study found tourism was responsible for 8% of total global carbon emissions, and the greatest contributing factor was travel. Ensuring that travel to and from far-flung places is responsibly undertaken is fast becoming a must for conscientious adventurers.
We don’t believe the answer is to stop all international travel, however. We’ve seen first hand the horror of poverty that afflicts some part of the world. Sustainable tourism offers the only way out for many.
Call to Adventure is set on minimising these impacts
The places that adventurers visit are often fragile themselves and can be damaged by irresponsible travellers. For instance, Mount Everest is now strewn with litter thanks to thousands of mountaineers – recently, a team of cleaners retrieved 11 tonnes of debris from its slopes in just one month. Coral reefs have also suffered from trampling, anchor damage and sunscreen pollution from irresponsible adventure tourists. To combat this, Call to Adventure follows and actively promotes the ‘leave no trace’ ethos as you’ll see in many of our how-to guides.
So, what can adventurers do to not only leave no trace, but to leave the world better than they found it? Perhaps our greatest strength is as communicators. The internet, despite its many flaws, has proven a fantastic way for people to share their adventures with a massive online community. These exploits can be accompanied by sharing messages of environmental and social responsibility.
It might seem superficial, even a little trite, but people love to copy other people. This is especially true if you lead an exciting life – which, if you're out adventuring, you do! And we already know the power of leading by example: just look at the rise of the climate school strikes, kicked off by Greta Thunberg. There is already a huge amount of social movement underway to tackle these crises, and adventurers can play a significant role in building on this momentum.
So, with that in mind, we encourage you to get outdoors, to go explore, and to connect with these incredible wild places. Be responsible and sensitive in your travels, and think about the risks to the places you are visiting while you explore them. Then, when you return, you can share these experiences with others, encouraging them to not only become adventurers but also to become environmental ambassadors, ensuring these places still exist in all their glory decades from now.
Want to know more about how you can be the change? Dive on into our thoughts on how we as adventurers can help fight climate change.
As committed as we are to environmental responsibility, we certainly don’t always get it right -- nobody does. But we’d love to hear from you on how we can be more effective on our mission to help create ‘happier people and a healthier planet through adventure and community’. Please do get in touch via the links/comment section below.