David de Rothschild

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


SPARKING CURIOSITY I was fortunate that I was able to grow up surrounded by nature; I particularly loved horse jumping on our farm. Growing up as a Rothschild didn't really push me towards becoming an adventurist. I was a curious kid and that curiosity led me to chase bigger dreams. Dreams are the breeding grounds of adventures; adventures are the breeding grounds of stories; and stories inspire more dreams. The whole equation is pushed through by asking questions. I think if you are curious, that's probably the best way to make a change. It doesn't matter where you come from or where you are going.

END OF THE EARTH My trip to Antarctica [in 2005] was fascinating. It's one of the most magical places and, up to a point, you might as well be on Mars. The 24-hour sunlight really struck me and gave me a sense of the greatness of our planet. I try to use these adventures as a medium to engage people. We are bombarded with messages every day so we have to find a way to make sure ours get through. The Antarctica adventure was interesting to me because most adventurists are motivated by their ego - to be the fastest, to conquer the tallest. But do I tell our followers I moisturise and I miss a soft pillow? We have a whole spectrum of tools now so there's really no excuses not to explore a deeper understanding of nature. To me, it's surprising that more people have been to the moon than to the Mariana Trench - the bottom of our sea. We are still at a very early stage of mapping our oceans.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC The Plastiki project [involving a boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles] involved 35 people and took four years. The project is ongoing because staying healthy and environmentally friendly is a long-term commitment. It's not something that just starts and ends. With the Plastiki, we may have finished the journey [from San Francisco, in the United States, to Sydney, Australia], but we're still spreading the message, getting people talking about what we do, and discussing the impact on the environment. I didn't have any idea how to build a boat before this - I came with no preconceived ideas.

SHREDDED TWEETS I set up [adventure and environmental portal] Myoo.com because I saw that social media was enabling access to information on a different level. The tools for distribution have obviously changed. When we conceived the Plastiki project, Twitter didn't exist. [When we were at sea], Twitter became an important tool. We're now at a crossroads in terms of social and cultural evolution. You need to make it fun and inclusive to sell the biggest brand of all: nature. The instant feedback, for example, is great. We'd post a tweet saying the headsail had ripped and we'd instantly get messages flooding in telling us what to do. It was empowering and motivated us to move forward. The downside, of course, was that we lost the tranquillity of being in nature, as we were constantly wired to the rest of the world. But we were there to send a message and wanted people to know about it. Still, it was a real challenge and I struggled with it.

FEAR THE WORST Nature leaves an indelible mark on your spirit. For sure, there's nothing like it. I live by the ocean so I wake up and surf when I can. We come from nature, we are part of it, and I always laugh when people ask what it's like 'out there'. For me, it's far wilder to move through the streets of Hong Kong than to navigate over a mountain or through a jungle. We define nature and conceptualise it in a synthesised way. We are more afraid of camping than enjoying the forest, or more scared of snakes biting us than the fact that we might lose that species. We have evolved to the point where these fears are becoming slightly outdated brain models. Our relationship with nature is more about the fear of drowning than the fear that we will lose species like the bluefin tuna. It's an extraordinary species but doesn't have a cuddly nose or little paws - plus sushi tastes awesome.

A CHANGED WORLD We live in a repackaged and altered society. You can drive to a climate-controlled build-ing in your climate-controlled car and that's it. We don't see nature until it does something that makes us sit up and take notice. The climate-change issue is unfortunately mired in debate. Now there is a futile debate about how much [climate change] is man made. The sceptics are focusing on the vari-ables to try to make a case, which I think is futile. My approach is to for-get about climate change and focus on the undeniable outcomes of consumerism: the pollution of our oceans, the extinction of species, the loss of rainforests, the pollution of our air; things that are really changing the natural environment. They may be unquantifiable but you can't deny the facts.