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Interview: David de Rothschild gives nature a voice

Interview: David de Rothschild gives nature a voice

David de Rothschild is an adventurer, environmentalist, eternal optimist and the founder of a group that uses exploration, adventure and storytelling as a way to give nature a voice. David is leading a new generation of action-oriented change makers and reigniting a collective spirit of hope that the fate of our planet can be rewritten. Driven by his immeasurable curiosity for the natural world he has journeyed to both poles and ventured to some of the most remote and fragile ecosystems on our planet in order to bring widespread attention and innovative solutions to urgent global environmental issues.

Photo: Matthew Grey

In 2006, David spent over 100 days crossing the Arctic from Russia to Canada, which made him the youngest British person, to ever reach both geographical poles. By then he had already become one of only 14 people ever to cross the continent of Antarctica, and was part of a team that broke the world record for the fastest ever crossing of the Greenland ice cap. In 2007, David led a field expedition to the rainforest of Ecuador, to draw attention to the damage international oil companies have caused by drilling the vast oil reserves.

Underlying this is David’s unwavering belief that we must work together and question a ‘that’s just the way we’ve done it’ mentality, best exemplified in David’s 2010 expedition; the Plastiki. In early 2010 he sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a catamaran made buoyant by 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles to alert the world to the shocking effects of single use plastics on the health of our oceans. The message and journey was seen and heard around the world by millions.

In November 2011 David and a core crew traveled into the heart of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest to discover the effects of the controversial Belo Monte dam project as part of MYOO’s ARTiculate series.
David is recognized as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Clean up the World Ambassador, UNEP Climate Hero and a Young Global Leader respectively.

Read the interview after the break.

David, what inspires you to undertake these challenging environmental missions?

My inspiration lies in the desire and motivation to use adventure to highlight pressing social and environmental issues; my hope is that our expeditions and adventures provide inspiration for others to undertake their own adventures, engaging individuals, communities and industry to become agents of change.

The Plastiki, saw you sail in 2010 a boat made from 12,500 bottles across the Pacific Ocean, what made you want to do this?

In June 2006 I read a report issued by UNEP called ‘Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas’ which alerted me to the fundamental issues facing our oceans in particular the plastics in our oceans. After reading this and on further investigation I felt I had to do something. I wanted to create a compelling and pioneering adventure that would not only be informative but would capture the imagination of a global audience and empower them to act more responsibly towards our planet. I believe that with more efficient design and a smarter understanding of how we use materials, principally plastic, waste can be transformed into a valuable resource, in turn helping to lessen our plastic fingerprints on the world’s oceans. The Plastiki expedition took influence from the principles of ‘cradle-to-cradle’ design and biomimicry before being realized by an incredible team from the fields of marine science, sustainable design, boat building, architecture and material science.
For more photos from Plastiki see Flickr.

Why the plastic bottle?

The Plastiki has been about taking a symbol of dumb plastic 1.0, the single use, throw away kind and making it functional. The Plastiki took 68 per cent of her buoyancy from these plastic bottles; without them the Plastiki would sink. Environmentalists’ kneejerk reaction is often to vilify plastics; it’s our pin up to boo at. I think what we have to do is differentiate between the throw away kind – the bottle, the bag, the Styrene foam, cup, plastic razors, throw-away lighters and biro pens – and the smarter materials. Plastic is ubiquitous in everything we consume, from the laptop you use to lifesaving machinery in the hospital. These have a place in our society and a longer life cycle but we need to reengineer them so they have a closed loop lifecycle. An example of this is the structure of the catamaran that we engineered out of a unique and fully recyclable technology called Seretex.

How long did the voyage take?

Prior to our departure of the expedition we spent almost three years, researching, designing, developing and building the vessel. From leaving San Francisco it took approximately 4 months to reach Sydney harbour, arriving in July of 2010 having crossed over 8,000 nautical miles. We visited a number of places along the way to meet communities, replenish our food and water supplies and perform maintenance on the vessel. Stopovers included The Republic of Kiribati (Christmas Island), Western Samoa, New Caledonia and Mooloolaba. The journey generated opportunity for tremendous curiosity, discovery and innovation as well as a platform for discussion, debate and action – which we hope will continue as part of the Plastiki’s legacy.

What keeps you going?

We are moving into a time where there is a lot of green fatigue and people are starting to feel increasingly more frustrated at being bombarded with environmental issues without being given the tools for solution. I think that reducing our waste and de-creasing our impact on natural resources, which basically is our use of materials that create waste, is something that is very achievable. This motivates me to give nature a voice and do my bit.

Please tell us more about your company…

I launched Adventure Ecology in 2005 to educate, entertain and raise awareness of environmental and social issues whilst driving real world solutions. In the six years that have followed we’ve been working hard to give nature a voice, we’re motivated by one simple pursuit: to inspire widespread, global attention to critical issues faced by our planet. As the world around us evolves, so must Adventure Ecology; in 2011 we evolved and launched
MYOO is a new for a new way of looking at the world. Formed from the heart of “community” [kuh- MYOO-ni-tee], MYOO is about bringing people together to protect the planet while, believe it or not, having fun. We believe that smart people working together can do incredible things. That’s why we created, an online home for fresh and compelling content that’s geared towards kick starting a smarter 2.0 way of living. At MYOO we believe in the power of collaboration, storytelling & adventure to drive social and environmental change. I hope will continue to grow and become a place to gather stories, describe dreams, and share our communities brilliant ideas.

Photo: Matthew Grey

I heard you recently visited the Amazon as part of MYOO’s ARTiculate series. What is this initiative?

MYOO undertook the ARTiculate adventure in November 2011 to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil to raise awareness of issues surrounding the Belo Monte dam project. It’s a very controversial and complex project that will divert the Xingu River in Brazil’s Northern Para region and become the world’s third largest dam.
The controversy is based on what will result in displacement of thousands of people, the destruction of indigenous habitats, loss of unique biodiversity, methane emissions and an acknowledged inefficiency of the dam itself.
We wanted to explore what would be lost should the dam go ahead and spent our time in the rainforest with local indigenous communities and their children, the Juruna and Arara tribes. We asked them ‘what is lost?’ and turned their answers into a visual expression, as well as a representation of a Juruna ancestral myth, a forked totem pole that will stand on the proposed dam site. According to the myth, if construction begins on the site, the forked totem will be knocked down, signifying the falling of the sky and the end of the Juruna tribe.

What is your call or order to international organizations and environmentalists against plans to build Belo Monte Brazil in the Amazon?

MYOO is focused on telling environmental stories to draw attention to such issues as the Belo Monte dam and to try to inspire people to take action and undertake their own adventures.
The call to action following our adventure, aside from asking for people to sign the Amazon Watch petition, is to encourage energy efficiency in Brazil. If Brazil were to become more energy efficient it could create up to 14 times more energy than the dam, making the project completely redundant. This issue is advanced but its not to late to stop it!
MYOO has been working closely with Amazon Watch and International Rivers to give these issues a new platform, for further information please check out and to sign the petition against the Belo Monte dam visit Amazon Watch online.

For further information visit, on Facebook and Twitter.

Articulate Belo Monte – Teaser:

Below more pictures from the ARTiculate adventure. Photo’s by Matthew Grey.





Belonging to the first generation of true Europeans, with roots almost covering the continent, I spread my life between Germany and Serbia. Read more