2017, the year of my biodiversity trek, was probably the most challenging and wonderful year of my life so far. I spent it cycling the length of South America on Woody, a bicycle that I built myself at the London-based Bamboo Bicycle Club from bamboo grown at Cornwall’s Eden Project. From Colombia to Cape Horn, (or as close as you can get to it on a bike), Woody – the UK’s first ‘home-grown bicycle’ – and I travelled 8288 miles. We followed the spine of the Andes through an astonishing variety of landscapes and ecosystems; from Pacific sea shore to high Andes paramo, from cloud and rainforests to Bolivian salt flats and the Atacama desert.
The aim was to explore biodiversity. What is it? What’s happening to it? Why does it matter and, above all, what can and is being done to protect it? And then to use the adventure story to help raise awareness and inspire action. I wanted (and want) to inspire people to move on this hugely important but relatively neglected environmental challenge.
Throughout the year-long ‘adventure plus’ journey I visited a wide range of biodiversity and nature conservation-related projects. I found a school whose entire curriculum is based on turtles and a project aimed at the conservation of the tiny, endangered Titi monkeys. My journey took me from a community fighting to protect an ancient sustainable fishing culture to one supporting local farmers to grow organic coffee in ways that are biodiversity-compatible. I encountered a small group of young Colombians fighting one of the largest gold-mining companies in the world to a woman who bought millions of acres of Chilean Patagonia to turn them into nature reserves.
I arrived back in the UK in April 2018 by cargo ship (which greatly reduced the carbon footprint of my trip.) And that’s when the really hard work began. I faced the task of turning over a year of cycling. Somehow I had to combine hundreds of stories – many inspiring, some shocking – six countries and thousands of photographs into a slide show talk of just over an hour. It has been quite a process. I’m now exploring those stories and the conclusions they lead me to in more detail by writing a book. Definitely a much harder challenge than the ride!
The main messages, though, are already crystal clear.
I’m hugely looking forward to exploring all of this alongside Devon-based adventurer and kayak maestro Ben Brierley when I come back to Findhorn in May. Findhorn is a place and community I always find both deeply re-energising and peaceful; our Wilderness Retreat, starting on 18th May 2019 is a digital detox in the Highlands of Scotland with adventures into the wild landscape; a chance to consciously connect with nature and review our own purposes.
Making the connection with Nature is vital. And deeply revitalising. Do please join us!
Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat to biodiversity on our planet. But technological and political engagements have not been able to find solutions. In Climate Change and Consciousness, April 20 – 26, we will approach the only thing capable of moving us beyond the level of being that created the problem: our consciousness. Join us in the livestream of this crucial event and be part of the exploration.