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White-water kayaker Dan Yates talks about his epic kayaking adventures and how they led him into becoming an environmental campaigner to protect our fragile landscapes

Dan Yates

April 13, 2022

Dan Yates has been passionate about white-water kayaking for over 30 years. He’s travelled to some of the wildest and remotest landscapes on earth and has had some incredible adventures, including being lost on the Tibetan Plateau with no food or water! He has a boatload of first white-water descents under his belt and kayaking has taken him to some seriously epic places where no human has ever been before.

During the last decade, he has become more focused on the environment and the need to protect these beautiful landscapes. A plan to dam and divert the Fairy Glen Gorge in Snowdonia led to him co-founding Save Our Rivers in protest, and after a three-year campaign, the plans were dropped.

Since then, Save Our Rivers has successfully campaigned against plans for dams in protected areas and fought changes to legislation that would remove protections of our most beautiful landscapes.  

Listen in as we dig into Dan’s kayaking adventures, his work with Save Our Rivers and the need to protect our wild rivers and National Parks for future generations to enjoy.


guest links

show notes

  • Kendal Mountain Festival - https://www.kendalmountainfestival.com/
  • Quickfire questions
  • Dan’s first memory
  • Favourite kayaking place outside of the UK?
  • Dan’s techniques to keep himself calm
  • Religious experiences
  • Tibetan Kayaking adventure
  • What makes kayaking so special?
  • Advice for getting started with kayaking
  • How was Save Our Rivers born?
  • Solving climate crisis
  • Natural capital economics
  • What made the Save Our Rivers Initiative so successful?
  • What projects and campaigns have Save Our Rivers been involved with?
  • Banks and share holdings

FULL transcription

calltoadventure

hello hello and welcome to another episode of the call to adventure pod with me George B. if you're listening to the audio version of this just a quick reminder that you can find the video version over at Youtube if you're so inclined just search call to adventure podcast Dan Yates so spring is finally here. The weather's improving and there's a general spring in everybody's step. Looking forward to summertime adventures if you don't have anything in the diary yet head over to call toadventure uk get yourself booked on something fun. We've got everything from wild camping to mountaineering ski touring rock climbing and even some kayaking which brings us nicely onto today's episode so today. We're chatting with Dan Yates a keen kayakka himself and the co-founder of save our rivers and he's recently joined protect our winters. So Dan welcome to the show.

Dan

Brilliant Thanks for having me on.

calltoadventure

Yeah, looking forward to having a chat so we were catching up just before the podcast and we met at Kendall Mountain festival at a Patagonia action word action works event that was probably four or five years ago

Dan

Yeah, it could be it it. Yeah I think so it was a while ago I've state they kendor festivals all run a little bit into one I think I go I go most years. It's It's probably my favorite event in the calendar.

calltoadventure

Does that sound about right.

Dan

Um, and but they do all get a bit blurry and I might struggle to delineate 1 year from the next. So.

calltoadventure

Ah, yeah, it's a really good event isn't it. Ah I I missed out on last um, was it last year's it looks like I'm having Kendall Mountain festival runage as well. They're all blending into one but I think it was this this year or the last one I missed because they sold out and they normally have some tickets that you can get There was no accommodation anywhere and it nims was there and I don't know why but it seemed like everybody wanted to go to Kendall this year so I missed out how how was it.

Dan

it was really good actually it was really good again I enjoyed it a lot because I think it's I think I've been to Kendall probably for the last five or six years and it was the first year that I didn't have a have a speaking event to do. So I got to go meet everybody catch up with a lot of people and not ah, not really have to do any proper work at all which was fantastic. It was great to be there just as ah, an audience member for the for the for the first time actually. And yeah I really enjoyed it I thought it's fantastic. So.

calltoadventure

Yeah, it's really nice to do that sometimes isn't it like a lot of times when I go on trips I have to do some filming and photography and I do like that. Um and I love it often. But it's also sometimes nice just to go and just think like I don't have to walk off ahead of everybody. 5000 times today on this hike to go and get the shot. Sometimes it's nice to just be there and enjoy it and soak it all up so we normally start with a few quick fire questions Dan so um, and then we go on to I've tried to use these cards a couple of times and they have gone down pretty well so far so we're gonna have we're gonna we're gonna have a go at these today as well. Um, some of them are a bit left field and I just select them at random but but we'll see so we'll start off quick fire question number one was your earliest memory dan.

Dan

Earliest memory lie me ah well for me that's quite a long time ago Now. So I'm so I'm struggling. But I think it's probably I'm sure being with my parents somewhere outside it being really cold and probably wearing. Ah, massively unfashionable ballaclaver and and sort of Parker jacket that being dragged outside in the frost or something I think I'm sure is one of my one of my earliest ones I couldn't couldn't pick the location but probably a national trust property like. Falling around on the ground or something in in the in the middle of the winter I think my parents used to do an awful lot of ensuring we were outside as often as Possible. So.

calltoadventure

Very cool, good parents top marks ah favoriteite kayaking spot outside the Uk.

Dan

Ah, blow me. Well this is a tricky one because it it was. It was the white nile in Uganda I think was probably 1 of my favorite places on earth but since I was I haven't been back to the white nile for. For a long time for maybe ten to fifteen years and since I was last there. there's there's been it's sort of all a bit messed up in my mind that place because there's been 2 huge dams constructed on that reverse since I was last there and it's basically turned into a very different place. Both both. Culturally, ecologically and as a kayaker. It's changed in a as dramatic a change as you could possibly ever imagine a wild place undergoing this happened since I was there and 1 of ah, a very good friend of mine. Lived there and around the time that all this was happening the second dam was being constructed. Um my friend passed away in a kiking accident and now the the whole place is sort of tingge with the the loss of him and the destruction of the environment of that place as well. So. It was. It was the white ni in Uganda but probably not probably I have mixed feelings about that place now but it it was there for sure I think.

calltoadventure

So yeah Mom I Love it hate it or somewhere in between.

Dan

Sorry, not a cheery, not a cheery answer that one that was terrible. So.

calltoadventure

Ah, it was either I seem to remember I think you talked about it in your Patagonia Action Works talk I think and it sounded it sounded like an I think it was there sounded like an epic trip but we'll we'll come on to kayking a little bit more after but right now important stuff The marmite question. Love it. Hate it somewhere in between.

Dan

Oh Marma on those's bile. Sorry yeah, can you know I feel Ill that you've mentioned it to be honest.

calltoadventure

Ah, well then even more swiftly moving on right? I'm gonna I'm gonna select one of these okay up First we've got do you have a technique for keeping calm this one might be quite fitting as a. Whitewater kayaker.

Dan

Ah yes, um I use a couple of different mental techniques to keep calm whether that's the top of a rapid or you know about to drop into a cool while when I'm snowboarding or something I do I find that. Often you've deserted yourself a little bit to get there and I think it's really important to your mind can be in that kind of even just with the exersion or the adrenaline from the aersion you can be in a kind of a fight or flight sort of state and it's really good to just to to switch your mind off. And do something different with it just for a second before you go. So I either just splash my face with water 2 or 3 times and I count you know 1 2 3 when I do it because it takes your mind away from that sort of fight or flight to that sort of calculated state or sometimes you know you you. Quite good so you could look at your group and name the color of everybody's bow so you go red blue green and then that just takes your mind out of that that state where it's maybe racing a little bit and makes you a little bit calmer and a little bit more calculated so that's my that's the. Technique I use. So and so far it's Don be proud I think.

calltoadventure

Yeah, interesting I've not actually come across that one before but um, yeah, gonna have to add it to the list. Okay number 2 have you ever had a religious experience.

Dan

ah ah I mean I went to ah I went to a church school when I was a kid I come from a half of my family is quite devoutly catholic and then I went to a church of england school at primary school. And that was enough to put me off religion I think pretty much for life. Um, but my only my only religious experience that I've had after that was before we put on a river in on the tibetan plateau and to paddle like a canyon down into China um. We. We visited a monastery and were given some religious rights. We were sort of blessed by the monks in that monastery, they burnt a little offering of of some sort of confetti and we spun the prayer wheels and so that was a sort of a religious blessing we had on a journey and that's possibly. Most disastrous near-death Kiyking experience I've ever had. So um, yeah, definitely not 1 for religion after that island it's not not helping me at all.

calltoadventure

Well, we've got we, you've you've lifted the can off the worms now let's Ki can we can we go into that one. what what happened

Dan

Ah, so this was this was um, a river that we paddled in China so all the all the big rivers in Asia all start in China they all start on the tibetan plateau and then they they sort of this sort of the 5 main rivers of Asia um, ah cut these big deep canyons. As they fall off the tibetan plateau sort of into the chinese flatlands and then some of them stay within China some you know, go into India some you know become the mekong and go into lao and there was one major river the the yellow river that that had 1 of these canyons. It was the last one that hadn't been kayak and. Um, to sort of be able to sort of get into China and do a sort of a first descent or ah, an exploratory mission about that is very difficult. There's all sorts of permits and things that you need to go to get there. Um, so we decided to just go there on our holidays. Not tell anybody sneak Arch Kayaks in you know hire a driver and head off into the mountains and and hope that nobody noticed and and we got to the top of the Yellow River Canyon and we paddled it in like 3 or 4 days. It was super successful. We got the got the sort of first descent tick. Um a chinese group had tried to paddle it. 10 years before us, but they didn't get to claim their first disscent because there's various different rules on what you can call a first descent and not and if every member of your party drowns in the attempt then you don't get to claim a first descent so they they didn't get 1 um. But we we made it down and it was all good but on our way down. We'd seen this other river sort of flow in from the side and we looked on a map and we realized that this river flowed from the highest peak of that mountain range from the aimachan mountain range which is a sort of super um, sacred mountain range from that part of the world. So we. Drive up to the top meet these monks at the monastery at this sort of four thousand meter peak put archayaks in the river and head off downstream hoping for the best and it turns out that hoping for the best isn't isn't good enough sometimes you need to do. Planning and being careful and having abilities that maybe we didn't have um and it just got sort of more and more horrendous it rained and rained and the river never went up and there was lots of landslides that blocked our passage down the river and eventually we had to. Give up trying to sort of navigate downstream. We've we've reached this huge landslide that blocked the whole river there was no way pass with our kayak so we had to abandon our kayaks put what food we could in a bag and then try and climb this sort of a thousand meter deep vertical canyon.

Dan

Um, which took two days including sleeping on a little ledge and then walk over all we knew is if we walked over this sort of huge mountain when we got to the other side. There was a stream and we might find a farmstead or something by a stream. But we weren't very sure but we bumped into these sort of on our second day with no water for two days we bumped into these sort of caterpillar fungus collectors that were sort of roaming around on the turberton plateau they'd been there for two weeks and they were leaving the next day and we bumped into them and they. Quite surprised to find um, sort of 4 white guys meandering around the tibetan plateau lost without any food or water but they took us under their wing and hiked us to this nearest little farmstead where the next day we waited for the mail truck and got a lift to a town. But we didn't know what town it was and then we managed to find a bus to a bigger town and then eventually back to a city where we could sort of return to civilization. But it was this sort of 4 day epic journey from the very bottom of this canyon to a city where we actually knew where we were um so yeah, it was pretty exciting. Times. Um, but yes I think I think possibly we could have been a little bit more organized and then a little bit more planning and and I think some lessons were learned on that on that trip but still one of my highlights. I think of my of my holidays that I'd be on.

calltoadventure

Yeah, it sounds awesome and I love how it's still a holiday. Ah, it has all the hallmarks for proper adventure. Lots of stuff going wrong, but then just at the end it it all comes through sounds like an amazing trip I've not been to Tibet but I would love to go. It's one of those places that has some. Special appeal. What what advice would you give to so I've not actually yeah yeah would I mean and I think the culture is really fascinating to and history. There. So um, yeah, can have to get myself out there at some point I've not actually.

Dan

It's stunning landscape.

calltoadventure

Done much if any kind of kayaking or white water kayaking So what's the appeal. What what's the experience like and how how's it compared to how why has it held you in a way that maybe other sports haven't.

Dan

I think I think it's the the ease at which it can transport you into really quite wild and remote places you can you can pack. You know it's very easy to pack almost ten days of stuff into a white water kayak. And then and then put in at the you know where a road meets a river and then in the middle of I mean it can be in your local village and you can put on where the road meets the river and take out an hour later and have had a little adventure in between. But also you could pack your kayak with ten days ' worth of stuff and put on fly into somewhere in the himalayas or or you know spend days trekking to somewhere in the himalayas where a path might cross a river and you can you can put your kayak in the river there and carry everything you need to transport yourself through. Such a variety of completely wild landscapes where it's maybe not possible for anybody else to go at all and then you can and and the only thing that you can do is to just keep on moving downstream. You know often these are places where you can't hike out halfway down. You're paddling through a desert. Of a canyon that is inescapable and you just know that each day you just move a little bit further downstream and that's that's all you have to do. It's very it's very simple it sort of simplifies life quite a lot and I think it's also because of that it definitely holds. 1 of the last frontiers a very easy adventure to to go place and and exploration so you can go. You know we we decided. For instance, the the story I just told you where we went to paddle the yellow river from the tibetan plateau in Chinghai Province down to down to the the flatlands there. And we literally just got on a plane with our kit and our kayaks and we went and did it and there's very few places in the world where 4 guys can choose on their holiday to go and travel a place where no other humans have ever stood before with such little. Um, so. We didn't have a huge sponsor. We didn't have a budget. We didn't have you know permits you know you can do all that we didn't have a helicopter and kayaking is one of the few sports I think where that's still available. You know to you don't have to be a pro sponsored athlete to do that you can just you can just book two weeks off work and. And off you go and and do it that way. So and I think politically when the world opens up a little bit more in like Xinang Province and you know parts of the chinese border where it you know sort of meets um some of the stars there is.

Dan

Ah, lifetimes worth of first descent kayking still awaiting you know people to go and do it and I think that's that's what appeals to me.

calltoadventure

Very cool. Yeah, definitely piqued my interest now sowing some seeds. What about advice to get into it for somebody. That's not done it before if I have my eyes set on a big adventure in a year's time what? what should I be doing now.

Dan

Um, I mean I think that the the great thing about kayaking is is that it's such a huge such a broad range of sports so to go and paddle you know and a sort of a gnarly waterfall filledlled. You know multi-day river in California or the Himalayas. Is. There's a there's a learning curve for that and it's pretty slow. You know it's not the quickest or easiest sport to learn and it involves being wet and cold quite a lot when you're learning that and it involves you know having some beat downs and and it and it can take a while. But you can just as easily take kayak or a canoe and paddle a completely flat wilderness multi-day through the yukon or through Norway or and and you can have these long multi-day adventures without having the the. Sort of technical skill set. You need to run hard white water. You can go and have those adventures in ah, just as wild just as stunning and just as remote places but just necessary not necessarily with the same technical level of difficulty and I think that. A lot of people might think that they just need to learn all that technical ability before they go off and have their big adventures. But I think in kayaking you can have those big adventures from day one you just need to so you know be a little bit careful of what rivers you pick. So that's what I do make sure you ah you get into the adventurous side of it early even if it's on. Easier grade white water but still go. You can still take you to some really amazing places.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, the only thing that I really have done is a two and a half week trip in the yukon actually ah with my girlfriend and it were and we had no skills just put loads of stuff in a boat and just went for two and a half weeks into the middle of nowhere and it was incredible for. Accessing that wilderness that you mentioned before it was kind of it felt like we shouldn't really be allowed to do it. We just kind of like rocked up and they were like yeah, just just take the boat and we're like really are we just ah we going and then eight days in I was probably I think that's one of the most if not the most remote that I've ever been and it was just. Bears and all sorts of wild animals everywhere and no humans to be seen anywhere and and coming from Europe where we don't really have much proper wilderness left. It was such a incredible humbling experience I felt like all of the words of John Muir were just like inspiring me and I was it was it was a really incredible experience. So um, yeah, it's it's and it's nice not to have needed that skill There are a few very low grade rapids that made it a little bit exciting but we really had no clue what we were doing.

Dan

Now I think that's the joy of it and I love I Love nothing more than like being camped on a beach with all of your Stuff. You know your tent or your tarf and your cookers and all your food is out and then you get up in the morning and it all packs away into this boat and you paddle away and don't leave a trace behind you and. Everything that you need in the whole world fits in this little boat that you're in and you don't need anything else you know and it kind of strips it all back to what's important I think.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, so let's switch gears to the save our rivers side of things so you are or yeah, you So So you're a co-founder of save our rivers And. Can you tell us the story of how that was born and what the kind of main objective was of the organization.

Dan

So so we it was sort of born as ah I suppose like a single issue campaign I think was was what it was. We'd ah myself and a lot of other kayakers have have made our homes in bettercoy and snowonia. National park in North Wales there's a couple of real hubs where kayakers live and you know people who are really passionate about it live in the Uk one is in 1 is in dartmohll. You know one is in and is in the northeast around based surrender of a swale. In South Wales you know, sort of based around the mester and the net beckcon and then there's another hub of kayakers that live around besoid because we have probably the best rivers in the Uk I think you know I'm not biased in any way but are in are in snowonia and particularly one river. Called the the avant conway and a particular section of it called the fairy glen where it's about 10 minutes from my house. It's where I meet my friends every morning at dawn when it's been raining to go kayek every night after work when it's been raining to go kayak and I think it's not only the best. Possible training ground for them going and paddling abroad and doing bigger trips because it has sort of a bit of everything in it. It's it's one of the sort of hard test pieces of white water in the Uk. It's also utterly stunning. It's a ales i. It's this beautiful gorge set amongst ancient woodland. It's full of otters and horseshoe bats and newts. It's a migratory river for salmon. It's the tenth most important spot for oceanic bryophytes in the uk oceanic bryphytes are sort of mosses and lichens and things and when you're in the bottom of this chorge. The whole the walls are dripping with moisture and and it looks like ah like a rainforest you know I mean ah technically officially it is a rainforest. It's a temperate rainforest as well and it's the most stunning place and then we arrived, you know one day to the news we We. found out I don't know through the internet or something or through a planning. You know application ahm not really sure how we came across this news but um, ah r wwe the multinational power company um were about to build or planning to build a hydropower scheme on this river they were going to build a dam upstream of the ferry gleng gorge this this sort of stunning wild place. And then we're going to basically put the water from that gorge in a pipe for for three miles all the way around the gorge dewater the gorge and then put the water back in at the bomb. Ah, we were really shocked because this was a national park. Um, we didn't things like things like this should be happening in a national park.

Dan

But the national park authority seemed to be relatively happy with the idea that this was going to happen and had had a lot of pre-application talks with rwwe so we didn't think that the the planning system was going to stop. It. The the landowner was the national trust and we were really shocked that they were in cahoots with. Ahwe as well and this appeared that that the landowner was going to allow this to happen even though it's the biggest conservation charity in the Uk and the environmental regulator seemed to be on board as well or before we'd found out about it so we turned up to a. Ah, Wwe had to do a consultation meeting where they spoke to stakeholders and kayakers were considered a stakeholder for this area but really their consultation was turning up and telling us what they were going to do and asking us if we wanted some money as compensation for loss of our our river um. And I think they were a little bit taken aback that the meeting with the chiakers didn't quite go recording to plan. Everybody was less receptive to their offers of money than they thought I think there was some swearing there was some quite cross voices and and ah 4 or 5 of us walked out and stood in the. In the car park and decided that there was there was no way on earth that we were gonna let these people do this and and we formed at the time a campaign group called save the com save the conway because that was the name of the river and that was that was a group of sort of. Mangy moldy kayakers that got together made a plan built an ngo made a coalition with other local conservation groups and spent 3 years campaigning against a multinational power company Britain's largest landowner and 2 government regulating bodies and we won. And that river stayed stayed free flowing still looks like it doesn't before still looks like it does it did ten thousand years ago and it kind of gave us this inspiration that that everybody has a voice and that we can all stand up and do do something for the environment and we thought we'd finish. Yeah, we are having a. Ah, party at my house to celebrate the fact that we've been successful in this campaign and we were going to get to go kaking on our river again tomorrow and it was going to look just like you did the day before and one of the conservation groups that we'd worked with rang me at like I don't know ten o'clock at night or eleven o'clock at night and said this terrible thing happening where where the welsh government is planning on diluting the environmental protection that the national parks in Wales sit underneath and we need to do something about it and we meaning this very sort of you know well-respected conservation charity had called.

Dan

Group of dirt bag coakers and said that we need to do something about this together and that made us realize that that all the lessons we'd learned and the voice that we'd built doing this first campaign we had to carry on so we we formed save our rivers and we launched our second campaign straight off the back of the first one which was. Called national parks matter which was against changes to welsh nationalal park legislation. We've gone on and you know supported campaigns in the balkans and in Austria we've campaigned against multiple you know developments on rivers throughout Wales and in the rest of the Uk and we're still going now. Nine years Nine years later that's that's our story really? um, just shows that everybody can do something if they want to.

calltoadventure

Yeah, an incredible story at that. So Huge congrats that is just awesome to hear. It's very inspiring to hear of when a group especially of dirt bags can just band together and and really help defend key places. But I wonder just just. Taking a step back. Why do you think that the national trust and various other bodies were on board with this when their mandate is to protect these places.

Dan

I think I think there's definitely there's definitely issues along um climate changes is is the one of the pressing issues that faces faces us. You know existence of our planet or existence of mankind on our planet today. Um, and I think some there has been a in some cases a collective rush to do anything. We can to cut. Carbon emissions which is very which is critically important but ignoring the wider ecosystems that surround important wild places. So I think there is a lack of understanding sometimes that when we look at. When we look at the threats that face the existence of human life on this planet there was there was everybody probably a lot of people have heard of the ipcc report which is the inter-parliamentary committee on climate change. It has this report we need to cut carbon by this much by you know. Net zero by 2050 and it's all critically important and I'm not you know and um and I need to be really careful to word that that that is not something we should ever steer away from but there's also a report called the I P B E S The Interparliamentary Biodiversity ecosystems reports and things like that which basically lists the threats. To human life on this planet and number one is is biodiversity loss. Um, it's it's biodiversity loss. It's through land use change. It's direct exploitation of species on this planet so that is. Through deforestation through overfishing there is then climate change. There is then pollution and polluting the waterways of you know landscapes and then the final one is invasive species ah changing. You know a transfer of species from 1 climate to another from 1 place to another man-made species impacting you know, farmed agricultural species impacting other species and I think. There has been far in a lot of developments and particularly around that time in the national park. There was so much focus on carbon that they were forgetting the impacts of biodiversity damage and loss through land use change. Um and and it doesn't matter if we cut carbon to zero if we remove all the biodiversity from our world.

Dan

We're all going to die Anyway, you know it's we have to be very careful about the balance between maintaining intact natural processes and systems of which free-flowing Rivers are key because they're the systems that tie land-based ecosystems. The ocean. Basically you know they're the the connecting of the the entire water you know the water table from from Cloud to Ocean. Um, and there has been a lack of care and understanding about that particularly when cutting carbon through building in these ecosystems. Also generates a profit for for people involved and I think that's that's the big sort of the big sort of greed money issue as well and so that's the yeah, that's that's the 2 I think the two things the lack of bigger picture thinking when it comes to how we manage our planet. And ah, always However, in you know, However, great You think this this these big charities are ah they always have a bottom line that they need to meet as well and sometimes they get a little bit carried away with the wrong side of things.

calltoadventure

Yes, is really interesting that I've heard it described recently as ah climate tunnel vision. So there are lots of 1 of the best models that I've seen for thinking about the. Big planetary issues that we face is from the stockholm resilience center of the planetary boundaries and it has 9 ah ah, group of scientists in the stockhom Resilience Center who study biophysical systems and basically everything that we should be really worried about they got together and they looked at 9 different challenges. Humanity is facing and then tried to quantify where we are in the kind of safe operating space safe operating space and where we've gone well past that and climate change as you say is a gigantic issue that we're facing and we need to be really thoughtful of that. But then you start to look around the list and as you mentioned biodiversity then there's. Ah, nitrogen and phosphorous flows and things like ah pollution and toxins and all of these things and then you and when you begin to look at those you realize that it's not the only thing that we need to think about and I was actually talking with somebody earlier today. It's really interesting. How. The western way of thinking is we we call it atomism like where we specialize we hypers specialize in things and break things down into tiny constituent parts like we have these doctors who are say an oncologist or an obstetrician or you have ah most people don't even know what another person's job means. Because we're so specialized and that is great. It gives us a lot of economies of scale and the ability to really become very expert in a certain field but it also means that when we're solving problems. We tend to be very myopic and when we instead take a systems thinking approach which is like more of a kind of. Traditionally eastern approach to thinking about things like not just looking at the fact that say you've you've got pain in your elbow and then the typical western physician would look at their elbow and then say oh well have you banged it. Can we get what? what should we do with the elbow. Perhaps. In the systems approach you would instead say well what is causing that issue is it referred pain and I wonder if that thinking is part of what stops us being able to solve the problem at its at its core. We instead try to treat the symptoms and it sounds like this is a typical example of. That of that very thinking we really need to cut carbon. There's been a lot of focus on climate change. But then we're not thinking about where that fits within the wider system.

Dan

Yeah I mean I I completely agree and I think I think that's it in ah in a nutshell we're not looking holistically at the planet we're looking in in Minutiae and also I mean I think in the west again We Love building Stuff. Like Engineers love building Stuff. We Love engineering things and building a dam and a River to to generate green electricity or or carbon and it is a green. That's the thing to generate low carbon electricity. It's not even carbon free. Um, is basically engineering the planet to try and solve a problem that we've caused by engineering the planet. That's that's that's what it is and the great thing about engineered solutions like building a dam or you know building building any sort of infrastructure. Is is there is profit tied to them as well people make money building stuff. People don't make money leaving things alone. That's that's Tricky. You know if you're like well you know if we leave this forest standing then it has this ability to. Support Biodiversity reduce flood impact sequester carbon but nobody kind of makes any money by leaving things alone people make money by building Stuff. So So we just hear repeatedly about how we're going to develop carbon capture and storage engineered.

calltoadventure

M.

Dan

And ah, people seem to forget the fact that our entire planets you know, sort of biosphere deals in carbon capture and storage. That's that's what it does. That's one of its key key Roles. You know it's it's. A tree grows it sequesters carbon leaves fall off the tree they get washed into a River they get washed down the River they end up in the sea they get sequestered as Limestone. Do you know? That's in ah in ah, a super basic carbon capture storage thing that involves intact ecosystems from forest all the way to ocean through rivers. But but nobody makes any money by leaving those alone. But if you can build this massive machine that sucks in carbon from the atmosphere using big fans and pumps into this big cavern that you've dug in the earth and there's a whole heap of money to convey to and I think that's I think that's a problem. When we have an economy that's driven by growth and driven by ah, by consumption and building then we prioritize the the wrong aspects of of what we should.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, no I I I completely hear what you're saying I think on a on a positive note there.

Dan

That's that that's a really big picture question I suppose.

calltoadventure

What I have seen that's encouraging is a lot more work around natural capital in in economics and finance so economists have certain ways of being able to process things and everything has to be in a monetary value and they they only understand something if you call it an externality as opposed to you say. Fact that you know these indigenous communities are being affected. It doesn't mean anything to them. You have to translate it into like this is an externality that's not being paid for and then all of a sudden it starts to make a little bit of sense and now there's been a lot of work done by lots of big actors out there. The world bank and a few others. Um and they have. Quantified ecosystem services now and in this category that they call natural capital and so finally the field of economics and finance beginning to be able to appreciate what this value of nature is because they don't think in terms of like. This is a good thing to they arguably. It's beyond their mandate to to think about morality. But even in terms of um, its its benefits to our economy because our economy sits within our society which sits within our ecology so we need to think about again this kind of systems approach. And and very encouragingly I have seen a lot more start to come out and different actors begin to realize that actually in order to you know we need pollinators. We need these. We need this carbon sequestration. Need all of these services and here's the pound amount or the dollar amount to help you realize why this is important because apparently it doesn't translate into your models by us telling you even though they kind of know from first principles. You know this is really important. We need to eat food if you can't eat that if you're a grain. Supplier or you're a meat and dairy company. What are you going to feed your cattle if you if there's massive water stress storage and then you can no longer feed them and all of a sudden when you begin to quantify it then I think the message starts to hit home and it took a long time with climate change. But fortunately. It's starting to feed through. Um so I know that it can always seem with it doom and gloom and we do have some incredible challenges but the good news is that from kind of being in the trenches there things are starting to move.

Dan

Yeah I mean I hate the whole economic value placed on nature and I hate the sort of monetarization of ecosystem services. But I think you're completely right? It's the only way with the system that we work in at the moment for things to get to get better. To get done the the way they need to be done and um, it's great to see things like following Brexit which is a topic that they want to go into but ah following Brexit the the rethinking of future agricultural policy in the u k for. Subsidies for good or you know and I think that's the way that we do have to go like it has to be let you say be driven by the monetary system. That's the only way that we're going to see progress in the timescales that we have available and um, there's some really good work being done in that area. So yeah I don't mean to be ah. Utterly doom and green without it it it does it does stick in my throat a little bit but it all has to be tied back to money before anybody will do anything but but if that's the way it has to be then that's the way it has to be.

calltoadventure

So what do you think it was that made you successful and what advice would you give to other organizations or people wanting to influence issues.

Dan

Um I think in terms of I mean I do 2 sort of 2 different strands of work now. So so first of all through seva rivers we we predominantly work on protection of wildplace issues. You know protect what's left or or however you want to phrase it. But. You know, protecting very specific areas from from development threats and we've been very successful in that I don't think there's a campaign. We've fought within Wales or run ourselves directly that we've lost which is which is really good and I think that is because. We are so passionate about those places. They're not a that when we're not people when we're sort of campaigning for a bit of whales or a bit of a national park legislation or for a river that are are this is you know like a kpi that we're trying to achieve with our organization. Like this is this is a place that I have an emotional connection to ah this is I feel therefore that this is not a fight that I am willing to lose in in any way and I mean I am invested in it and the people that I work with at Saveor Rivers are invested in it to to their very core. You know and that's because they the connect the emotional connection that they have to those places means that they just can't let them go and I think that in in that type of campaigning that is that is key that is that is critical ah in my other job. Because I now work for protectorers as well. On climate this is this is a job. We've been doing for about eight months or something like that. Ah climate is a very different issue to work on because we're essentially it's such a broad topic and we're not working. It's not a you know. ah river or ah or a forest I can go and look at and get and get connected to in in this way and for me working on climate. We're working on systemic change. We're working on cultural change. You know we're working on moving the system by using kind of grassroots activism. Techniques with people and for that that what what sort of drives me there is is the people aspect of it knowing that people are passionate about this knowing that people want to do better want the system to change and will will work with us on it. that's that's the key for me. It's sort of. Passionate about the community in the same way that I might be passionate about the places and I think that's that's what you've got to have you've got to have that kind of connection whether it's to the people or whether it's to the places you've got to feel it.

Dan

And that kind of drives successful work. Hopefully.

calltoadventure

Um, what specific campaigns are you doing there. What what kind of things because it's just like you mentioned just a huge topic but you mentioned the kind of grassroots activism. But what are some? Yeah what are some of the projects that you're working on.

Dan

Um, well so this I think we last autumn we we've just sort of finished phase one that we have different sort of strategic part priorities protect winters Europe um, so one of them just I mean we have just to sort of. Clear up what protector winters europe is a little bit protector winters was started in 2007 in the states by Jeremy Jones sort of professional snowboard. It was very wintersports focused at the beginning and now it's it's grown in the United States to be the voice of. Pretty much the entire outdoor community or they call it the outdoor state you know in their american way um about about action for climate change and that moved across to Europe. Ah. I think the first protector winters in Europe was in Norway and we've got the Uk and Switzerland and we now have 9 active chapters in Europe right across Europe working on their projects and it was decided last year or sort of late twenty twenty that what they really needed now was a coordinating body for europe to sort of make sure all the chapters are speaking with the same voice aligning on the same topics but still having the space to run nationally relevant campaigns as well. Whether that's a campaign around a national. Election in their country but then also come together on these bigger topics and that's where protector winters europe which is the coordinating body that I work for came in that that was founded in 2020 I came on board in 2021 and we've just had our third member of staff come on board this year as well. So we're growing. And so we're trying to run those sort of pan-european campaigns and so last autumn we worked on a campaign called divested dirt which was targeting the financial industry asking retail banks and and in one country's case the Uk's case pension providers just stop investing in the exploitation of New Fossil fuels so the international energy agency said that after 2021 there is no need for any new fossil fuel exploration anywhere in the world. No new coal mines or coal mine extensions. No new oil or gas fields anywhere. Is enough Fossil Fuel currently in production to break all the carbon budgets that we have and make us unable to meet the Paris 2015 target of net zero by 2050 so stopping. New exploration is ah is ah is a pretty easy one. So we we were asking our community to contact their banks or their.

Dan

Pension provider or their council's pension provider and and ask them. You know about the policies that they have for and new investment in fossil fuels and telling them that we are expecting better from our banks and better from our pension providers. So that was that was last year's campaign and then we've just finished. Our other big strategic priority for this year is transport transport mobility because transport is depending on which set of figures you look at either the largest or the second largest you know greenhouse gas emission creator in Europe. So there's electricity production and there's transport and ones at like 30% of ones at like 29% so they they're pretty equal but the the thing about transport is it's the only sector that is still growing in emissions and it's probably also our audiences the the sort of outdoor communities. It's the biggest climate impact. Have um from their sport will be how they travel to do that sport whether they go by car or plane and this is a huge campaign for us in both in terms of driving for better systems in terms of more connective easier to use public transport systems. But also cultural change asking people to leave the car behind leave the plane behind travel by train travel by Dike and so that's ah, that's a campaign that we're we're sort of really deep in at the moment we've just had a mobility week where we asked all our community to travel as sustainably as possible for a whole week which was great. 20 companies got on board had all their members of staff traveling sustainably. You know our community logged over Twenty Thousand kilometers of sustainable travel mostly by bike by using a tracking app and that's that's the other campaign we're on at a moment. So so yeah transport and finance are the big. Targets for this year must putteta winters Europe.

calltoadventure

really really cool awesome the the divest the dirt campaign I think it's a really interesting one I think a lot about because I think for banks it completely makes sense to say to banks you are not allowed to lend. Any new projects for drilling or for oil and gas exploration or thermal coal or tar sands because let's say there's for example, a polish coal mine. They want to ah they want to set up now. They need 100000000 and if lots of banks say no, we're not giving you the money then they can't build that. That cot plant anymore and then we've we've achieved our goal of staying within our carbon budget with pension plans. It's really interesting because in the and without getting boring with it. They they call it the secondary market. So so the company has already so let's say it's x on mobile. They've already sold their share. And now somebody else owns it in the secondary market which might be your pension fund if they sell it. They can often sell it to a private equity fund who don't have shareholders looking into what they're doing or it might go to some less scrupulous or less caring owner and it's a really interesting one because. Do you? What impact do you actually have on the company if you divest that because then you lose your ability to vote your proxies and say we want new board members who are more climate conscious and you also lose your seat at the table to be able to engage with them and say we know that you have terrible. Fossil fuel emissions right? Now your carbon numbers look terrible. We're not happy with this, you need to do something and some of them not all of them Exxon mobile properly is one that sticks out as being not particularly well poised for the transition. But there are some like next era. For example, who are looking at transitioning to renewables and they know that their their business model or most of them know that they're going to be stuck with a load of stranded assets if they don't do something ah and so it's it's an interesting one I don't think it's black and white. But what? What do you guys. What do you guys? think about that I know just just to be clear. My goal is I am very much an environmentalist and but I'm also the kind of pragmatist and tried to be ah tried to engage with the issues and think about what is going to get us to the outcome.

Dan

Yeah I mean I think I think when we when we with the name divest the dirt in the campaign I think it's it's we need to be clear that we we weren't asking our community to divest from their bank If their bank invested in Fossil Fuel exploration because.

calltoadventure

1

Dan

Obviously if you're no longer a customer at that bank. You don't have a seat at that table with there's some in new eu taxonomi legislation coming out which means all banks are going to have to report the the esg the environmental social governance aspects of their investments and that's coming out this year and what we were basically asking our community to say is I bank with you currently I'll be watching what comes out in this Eu Taxonomy you know reports that you your esd reporting that you have to do and will be will be watching you and that's important to me. We weren't sort of telling people that. Your banks invest in this so pull your money out. You know we were basically saying what we want to be doing is as customers pushing our banks to make the right choices and we're seeing that a little bit as well. I think in terms of pension funds as well. I mean. When you when you look at we're looking at 2 things and it's basically the same with pension funds as it is with it is with banks as well. There's the the shares they hold in existing oil companies and then there's the lending they do for new exploration and that can come from sort of both of those pots. And if we want to move the real economy telling banks to divest their shares doesn't really have a massive impact because those shares will be sold and they will go somewhere else and the real economy doesn't necessarily move that much new lending ah ipos initial purchase offers. Things like that. That's how we move the real economy. So when we're asking for systemic change. That's what we were really focusing on the no new lending to to fossil fuel companies. That's what we want in terms of divesting from shares that they already own you're you're completely right? That has a much more. Diluted effect. You know that does have an impact but it doesn't shift the real economy in such a bold way as no you There's no new lending bridge. However I think that's really down to a a moral and a cultural change perspective in the fact is yeah I think we keep thinking of. You know is a bank I'm a customer of you know doing this bad thing. You know in you know, owning shares in this but actually we need to just take it back to the fact that they know that's my money like so therefore do I indirectly own shares in this fossil fuel company and am I personally comfortable with that or not. And I think that's ah, kind of more of a moral standpoint than ah than ah than ah, a standpoint that we're chasing for its impact on the real economy. That's the no new lending side of things I think we wanted people through the other the other aspect to think about.

Dan

Where their money sits and what their money is doing in the same way as they think about what they eat or how they travel and to to know that you can have that that that sort of that sort of control over your impact as well and your control over your impact in a way that is far more meaningful than.

calltoadventure

M.

Dan

Stopping eating meat or anything like that. Not that there's anything wrong with stopping eating meat and it's great that people do that. But you know there's a really good sort of number. That said, if you if you green your pension fund your personal farm and footprint. Your all your pensions and your savings if you put those all entirely into green funds. Your personal carbon footprint will reduce 21 times more than stopping flying changing your energy provider and stopping eating meat all combined. It's huge, the indeed the personal the personal. So. Bit. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that that carbon isn't being produced somewhere else, but it's nice to know that it that you're having that personal moral decision makingking ability sits within you as well. So So yeah, it's a bit of both.. It's a bit of it's ah it's a bit of both I think that. Yeah, feeling like you're doing the right thing making the right personal choices but also having the aspect our new lending which is moving the real economy and making real difference as Well. So It's sort of ah a dual a jewel pronged approach.

calltoadventure

Yeah I couldn't agree more that it's really important that we're more thoughtful about where our money's going what we're what we're investing in and peeling back the hood to really think about is this something I want to be a part of and what can I do to really move the needle. Dan. It's been awesome to chat I've really enjoyed digging into a few of these things and I'm sure we could go on for hours and hours. But um, if people want to learn a little bit more about protect our winters or save our rivers where are the best place for them to go.

Dan

I mean I think like everybody now a lot of our coms goes out through Instagram so it save our rivers on Instagram it's protect our winters europe on Instagram or we're protect our winters dot eu is the website. To winters and then and then save our rivers dot org is the is the website to save our rivers. Um, where both are pretty active. Ah protector winters has been super active just recently coming out the back of our mobility campaign. Um, and then. So rivers is going to be getting a lot more active coming up. There's some huge campaigns happening both in the in the late district around the river kent. But also there's some huge projects in Austria where we'll be supporting Ww Wwf Austria wet tyrril and free rivers sp which are ngos working out there against. Ah, a massive project called the carmental project which is which is ah a hydro project on a scale of which we haven't seen in Europe for a long time in terms of its environmental destruction. So that that's one to follow coming up this year with segorius as well. And we'll be telling people how they can get involved. Um, yeah, we're on Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that does anybody use Facebook anymore I'm not I'm not really sure. But we're there just in case they do.

calltoadventure

Ah I don't I don't think so but um, yeah, we'll definitely be following those those the best of luck with that. Keep up the good work and we'll add all the links to the show notes. So Dan thanks again for coming on and listeners. Thanks for tuning in so until next time. Be adventuring.

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