Monday, December 21, 2009

Rothschild Heir Battling ‘Nature Deficit Disorder

David de Rothschild, the 31-year-old British adventure-explorer, eco-activist and social entrepreneur says he’s often asked after one of his expeditions into nature what it is like “out there.” He says he usually returns the question, asking people what they mean when they refer to “out there.”

“We have a nature deficit disorder as a species,” de Rothschild told a gathering of social change activists Dec. 12 at TEDx Silicon Valley. “We are detached from our environment in ways we were not previously. Kids learn about the natural environment but they’re not really touching it themselves.” He added that, as adults, “we pay extra for an ocean view but we probably won’t go for a swim.”

de Rothschild, the director of Adventure Ecology, a British expedition group raising awareness of climate change, says he believes humans are “on a dangerous path” because we’re manufacturing nature rather than saving the nature we already have. He cited Japan’s Ocean Dome, which last month reopened as the world’s largest indoor water park in Miyazaki, Japan. Ocean Dome, with its artificial sand and world’s largest retractable roof, is “just hundreds of feet away from the real ocean and yet people actually prefer to go to the manufactured replica. How crazy is that?”

This waning sense of ownership of “real” nature, de Rothschild says, has motivated him to step up his eco-activism. In 2004/2005, he became the youngest Briton to traverse Antarctica and then went on to be part of a team that broke the world record for the fastest-ever crossing of the Greenland ice cap. This spring, he hopes to begin his journey across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney, in a 60-foot catamaran made of used, two-liter plastic bottles and other recyclable materials. He’s called the vessel the Plastiki, a play on the name of the small raft, Kontiki, that Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl used in 1947 to sail across the Pacific from South America to the Polynesian islands. QUOTE from david here about kontiki.

“We’re entering an era of scarcity and so we really have to rethink waste as a resource and how we use our materials, what we use them for and how we dispose of them,” he said. “After seeing the accumulation of plastics in our ocean, I felt we needed to call for action.” But pollution is only one thing to focus on, he says. So is global warming. “After seeing temperatures of no more than 1 degree below zero and sweating in my tent up at the North Pole” during a recent expedition, he says. “makes it very clear to me that we have to do something.”

During his Plastiki voyage, de Rothschild will sail with the support of a handpicked crew of leading scientists, adventurers and creatives on what they call “a mission to inspire, educate and activate individuals, communities and business’s to start moving towards a smarter more sustainable planet 2.0 way of living.” One of the goals of the trip will be to investigate and document parts of the famous “Garbage Island” made of plastic waste that is the size of Texas and is floating in the remote waters of the Pacific, along de Rothschild’s route.

“Humanity has always wanted to tread the path of least resistance,” he says. “But all of us, going forward, can no longer afford to do that. We need to stop hiding from the challenges that confront us and work harder to make change in the real world rather than try to manufacture better or more detached versions of the one we’ve got. It’s not too late.”

For more about deRothschild’s passion for the environment, see his video (below):

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