Image courtesy of Sidetracked magazine
The latest issue of Sidetracked magazine features a foreword from Society Director Professor Joe Smith.
Available from today (14 February) this issue tackles the idea of risk, illustrated through a number of personal stories of expeditions and remote travel pushing mental and physical boundaries.
Joe’s foreword comments on a need to move away from a view of ‘Spaceship Earth’ where we focus on how to control the planet and more towards the thinking of ‘Campsite Earth’, a place we pass through with skill and care, leaving minimal trace. You can read the full piece below.
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This edition of Sidetracked is threaded through with the theme of taking risks and taking care: taking care of each other, of kit (and kit taking care of you), and taking care of the places you inhabit and pass through. I want to invite you to pan out a little from these compelling accounts of ambitious human beings moving across the Earth and ask you to set all these stories and images within a much bigger picture.
British astronomer Fred Hoyle suggested, in 1948, that: ‘Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available... a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.’ The 1968 Apollo 8 mission, and the Earthrise image it generated gave us that photograph. These images were captured during one of humanity’s most extreme, most technologically sophisticated, and most courageous expeditions. You could call it the mother of all drone footage. But it’s interesting to note that, having gone all that way, these expeditioners could barely take their eyes off home.
This is surely the reason why the picture became such a touchstone for modern environmentalism.
But have these pictures really fulfilled Hoyle’s prophecy? We have a way to go for sure, and we will require all of our capacity for curiosity, determination, ingenuity and generosity to cope with the challenges facing humanity. It might also require that we take more care with our metaphors. For one thing, instead of thinking in terms of ‘Spaceship Earth’, where we learn how to control and drive the thing, pieces in this issue of Sidetracked got me thinking that we might be better off thinking in terms of ‘Campsite Earth’. This is a place we pass through with skill and care, leaving little trace, and picking up treasured memories during our time-limited stay.
In my short tenure as Director at the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) I can draw on a rich mix of examples from our talks and grants programmes that show humanity’s best qualities as purposeful travellers.
Dwayne Fields’s Children’s Lecture inspired a packed house of young people with his account of being the first black Briton to walk 400 miles to the magnetic North Pole, and he works to inspire all young people to take care of themselves and the people and places around them through adventures large and small.
Felicity Aston, who devised and led the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition also has great tales to tell, but her underlying objective was to advance inter-cultural understanding, to progress the standing of women in particular societies, and to deliver new physiological insights into the woefully under-researched effects of extended exposure to cold on women’s bodies.
Looking over our shoulder in time we can see the same qualities in play when George Mallory led a group of trench-hardened World War One veterans on the first survey of Everest. They carried a couple of portable Kodaks and a big box camera. They also carried developing kit the size of a small dining table. This was about more than generating an accurate survey; they surely knew that they would be creating luminously beautiful representations of the mountain, the region, and its people.
A Nepalese friend who works on climate change policy, Dr. Poshendra Satyal, and who grew up in a mountain village, noted that these pictures were real treasures for his community today. But he also observed that the pristine views surrounding Everest are now littered with expedition trash, and that glacial retreat is tangible in ‘before and after’ comparisons. Whether wide-angle or close up, from stratospheric heights or on the sea-bed, we have a capacity to capture and share powerful accounts of our risky status as inhabitants of the Campsite Planet. We need now to make sure that we invest every litre of jet-fuel and every drop of printer ink as if we plan to extend our stay.
We’re excited to announce this year’s Earth Photo competition is now open for entries.
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