Adventures in Sustainability are Coming – Whether You Like it or Not

Ice. The lack of it. In the Arctic. It was the biggest story of the year. Or should have been. Compared to the ice cover in the 80s and 90s, a chunk the size of India went missing. The sun-reflecting world-cooling power of ice was replaced by dark heat-absorbing water. It’s a recipe for run-away climate change. 2012 marked a century since British explorer Robert Scott reached the South Pole. Polar exploration used to be a matter of human bravery, ingenuity and quest. In 2012 it was a matter of corporate greed, stupidity and extreme environmental hazard, as Shell continued to explore the Arctic, with their first rig accident. During my career most professional environmentalists have sought to be positive, not alarmist. Focus on solutions, not scares. The result has been some big changes in individual firms, communities, or ecosystems. But in the round, its produced incremental and largely inconsequential change. Some call on us now to accept the coming disruption. They have a point. Adaptation is key, and doesn’t just mean higher sea walls. Adaptation to climate change must involve adapting our minds also. Otherwise we risk making things worse by holding on to patterns of thought and behaviour that are destructive. The transition will need to be mental, perhaps spiritual. So there needs to be a shift in our thinking about the “environmental challenge.” A shift beyond the dark projections on the one hand or happy-clappy go-green easy nonsense on the other. So I’ve come to sense we need a new spirit of adventure. A very different future is coming, and we have to explore different ways of living, producing, trading, exchanging, consuming. That future won’t just come from new consumer choices or enlightened business. Sadly, it’s going to involve some discomfort and some struggle. It will involve periods where we feel on the edge of our abilities. It will involve stressful times where we discover more about ourselves and each other. That adventure is coming whether we like it or not. If we think ”sustainabiliy” is about maintaining our current way of life we will fail just as if a mountaineer set out equipped for the shopping mall, when they were off to climb Sca Fell. It’s time to name the adventure, and find our expedition teamates – those who will join the necessary journey.

Do you think a spirit of adventure will help us to discover new ways of sustainable living and working? Maybe not. Do you want to explore this idea further? Good. Then consider joining me at the Royal Geographical Society in London on May 22nd 2013. We are hosting a celebration of adventures in sustainability, with stories from explorer and broadcaster Paul Rose, environmental travel writer Kate Rawles, former Faithless band cofounder and 1 Giant Leap producer Jamie Catto, Wild Swimming author Daniel Start, sustainability communications guru Ed Gillespie, and myself, Professor of Sustainability Leadership Jem Bendell, amongst other eco-adventurous guests. The event introduces the new Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria.

The event is mostly by invitation only, but some tickets will be on sale from March (email [email protected] to register your request for an invite). Currently we are looking for sponsors to help make this event accessible to a wider range of people and for a film we are making on the topic and event. If your organisation could sponsor this, and thereby invite your friends and business partners, please get in touch with me directly ([email protected]). More information on the speakers follows below.

The speakers:

Paul Rose is one of the world’s most experienced divers and polar experts, a regular presenter of BBC programmes on exploration, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society. For the past 30 years he has been helping scientists unlock global mysteries in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet. His new BBC documentary, Frank Wild: Antarctica’s Forgotten Hero, has just aired on BBC ONE and BBC TWO. Paul is now using art to bring attention to sustainability challenges.

Jamie Catto is a former and founding member of the band Faithless. He left to form the double-Grammy nominated, global music and film project 1 Giant Leap. He blended sounds, images and ideas recorded across 5 continents, to explore the unity in diversity. Jamie also leads uniquely transformative workshops, which draw from the diverse wisdom, techniques and processes he encountered during his musical and philosophical voyages.

Ed Gillespie is Co-Founder of Futerra Sustainability Communications and a flight-free round the world traveller. In 2007-8 Ed circumnavigated the globe without flying in a slow, low-carbon travel adventure using trains, buses, cargo ships and the occasional belligerent camel. He works internationally on ‘selling the sizzle’ of sustainability, inspiring change through powerful, compelling visions of a positive future.

Kate Rawles is senior lecturer in Outdoor Studies at the University of Cumbria, environmental campaigner and outdoor philosopher.  She is author of The Carbon Cycle; crossing the Great Divide, chronicling her ride through the Rocky Mountains. Kate cycled 4553 miles from Texas to Alaska along the spine of the Rockies, exploring attitudes to climate change and searching for solutions in the belly of the oil beast.  Kate finds that crossing the great divide from here to sustainability is an adventure we’re all on, however unchosen.

Daniel Start is a writer, facilitator and consultant specialising in environment, community and economic development. He is the author of a series of cult classic books on ‘wild swimming’ in the outdoors.  What could be more refreshing than slipping into the cool, clear waters of a secret lake? And what could be more exciting than plunging into a hidden waterfall? Daniel shows that adventures can be found not so far from home.

Jem Bendell is a Professor of Sustainability Leadership and founding Director of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria. In 2012 the World Economic Forum recognised him as a Young Global Leader for his pioneering work on innovative collaborations for sustainable development. His work has taken him to live and work in 8 countries on 5 continents. Alongside his academic career, Professor Bendell has worked for the United Nations and the World Wide Fund for Nature. His next book is called Healing Capitalism.


Lifeworth is delighted to be helping IFLAS to produce and promote this event.

Jem Bendell, Founder of Lifeworth and IFLAS (January 9th, 2013)

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