After 10 weeks and over 230 miles, join Dan on one last walk as he concludes his series along the Wherryman's Way. It's been a mammoth journey, through a wide array of landscape and beauty, flora and fauna.
Daniel recently gave a speech at a TEDx Conference. Here's a transcript from the event; an essay entitled: 'Earth: Our Home. Our Future'.
‘There is nothing permanent except change’.
The words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus from 500BC. Six words, articulated from the dusty tracks
of ancient Ephesus in Turkey, but speak volumes about an entire planet over
2000 years later.
We live in a world of such unprecedented dynamism. As we sit
still, Planet Earth is spinning 67,000 miles an hour in the cosmos. This maybe some
speed, but no speedometer could compute neither the pace of human development
nor the velocity of our technological progress. The texture of our lives is
continuously being dissolved and recomposed around us. We may view life in three
dimensions, but a fourth element is always present. The element of change,
exponentially catalysed around us, is fundamentally part of what it means to be
As a geographer, I am continuously asked what the nature of
my discipline is. What does Geography
mean? What does Earth mean? How inextricably complex the question remains, and
yet, could it be that the planet changes so much that we cannot accurately
assert a definition to its study? After all, Geography is one such discipline
where the force of change is a central facet in the way we understand how the
This is not a world in stasis. From the Stone Age to the
Bronze Age, from the Iron Age to the Medieval Period, perhaps what gives this
world meaning is that of its capacity for change. The last century has
witnessed an inexorable rate of change. Our digital revolution has bred, and
continues to breed, a world of interconnection; a world where the Euclidian
dimensions of distance seems to matter less and less. We have profoundly
transformed the nature of the human experience, bringing distant others closer
together, in a community of virtual connection. No doubt the world has become
transfigured beyond the point of return; perhaps it is this that now re-defines what it means to be in existence on Earth.
Whilst Human Geographers seek to comprehend the nature of
our globalisation, down the other end of the department corridor is a
congregation of Physical Geographers who are studying another change. A
critical issue; a demanding contemporary crisis; a quandary for us all. That of
Climate Change. Shadowing the positivity of our digitalisation and
technological innovation, the tentacles of Global Warming are encroaching part
of what it means to be living on Planet Earth in the 21st century.
In short, after so many thousands of years of changing- after centuries of
fine-tuning our traditions and methods- we have still not reached utopia.
Global Interconnection and Global Warming. There is a great
dichotomy here; the former reflects on man’s faculty over the world, our
ceaseless endeavour for human betterment, whilst the latter reminds us that we
are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We have the means by which to travel
the world, and although we might fly, a footprint mutilates the globe- a Carbon
Footprint. Similarly, the mobile phone has almost become part of our own
anatomy-shamefully, there always seems to be one in my hand- but it is a device
which depletes our non-renewable resources.
Despite the clear associations between our simultaneity and
the pressing matter of climate change, however, the academic establishment
continues to atomise these discourses. Although it could be argued that Global
Warming seeps into all of the aspects of what is a fractured discipline; global
interconnection is clearly a criterion for a Human Geographer’s agenda. I think
that this, most significantly of all, is where the error lies. The most
effective catalyst for changing the course of Global Warming would be to solder
these two discourses. To retard the development of climate change, we should be
searching for a more profound resolution.I propose a unique perspective; a unique resolution to Climate Change.
After all, the conventional approaches do not seem to be
effective catalysts for change. Using public transport, car sharing, recycling,
purchasing eco-friendly light-bulbs; these are small scale adjustments we make
in our daily lives to hinder the warming of our world. But as Paul Stern, from
the National Research Council once wrote, “the environmental impact of any
individual’s personal behaviour is small.Such individual behaviours have environmentally significant impact only
in the aggregate, when many people independently do the same things.”
But why, if these grass-root approaches are so small in
scale, aren’t they adopted by enough people in which to make them, as Stern
put, “environmentally significant”? Stern goes on to hypothesise possible
reasons; that “environmental impact has largely been a by-product of human
desires” – such as comfort, enjoyment, power, status, and mobility. I would go
The split with nature is at the heart of an environmental
crisis. My most cardinal point would be to state that I think a wave of
technological innovation, interconnection and the rise of the internet culture,
has disconnected humans from the world. By inhabiting a cyber-fuelled, virtual
reality, we have lost the values we once upheld for nature. In short, the human
race has disconnected with the landscape, and connected with the Wi-Fi instead.
The green and pleasant land seems to be no longer a place
which provokes awe and wonder, but instead, exasperation due to their poor
network signals. The landscape, once encapsulated in paintings and poems, is
relegated to the background of a ‘selfie’. As the public domain get access to
satellite maps, the conception of true wilderness is a questionable notion; the
ability to set out and enjoy pure exploration is less likely in the age of navigation
Influential ecologist Aldo Leopold believes we abuse the
land because we regard it as a “commodity belonging to us” not one “to which we
belong”. If we are to effectively catalyse a hindrance to Global Warming,
approaching those profound questions of our connectedness to nature is
Addressing Global Warming very rarely goes as far as to
consider these rather abstract points, but I would argue that encouraging the
public to seek a more ecologically friendly way of life will yield little
impact unless the public feel a moral obligation to protect their own planet. To
use the words of Mayer and Frantz: “unless they feel a sense of kinship with
it; unless they view themselves as belonging to the natural world and view
their welfare as related to the welfare of the Earth.”
Our connectedness to nature is something that has been
studied in other disciplines. According to health experts, spending leisure
time in natural environments is beneficial for human health and well-being. I
would go on to suggest that an individual’s well-being is just one of the many
factors which influences them to protect the world in which they inhabit.
This is not a call to demolish the platforms of
communication we have set up. Indeed, the internet is a valuable asset in
delivering a message about the global problems we share. What I would assert is
that we re-ignite our zest for exploration; that we re-ignite our zeal for
discovery; that we make Planet Earth a compelling environment for young people
to discover, rather than let them become entangled within the addictive web of
the social network, for in that web, their connection with true nature can
never be fostered.
Can this work? Can such a profound shift in our emotional
affinity toward nature truly be an effective catalyst? It’s a fresh, new angle,
and requires much more research. But I would agree with Mayer and Frantz that
feeling connected to nature and eco-friendly acts have a bi-directional
relationship. Feeling connected to the landscape will encourage a certain act
of stewardship for it, and in turn, proliferate their connection with nature.
This bi-directional relationship has been studied, in some
senses, only this year. In a paper published this summer, a group of interviewed
farmers felt that if they are more capable of conserving nature on their farm,
the more they see themselves as connected to nature. In turn, the more they feel
connected to nature, the more likely they are to commit to conservation.
I conclude with the wisdom of Henry Thoreau and in some ways
it encapsulates what I believe to be my own philosophy on the world. “This
curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than
it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.”
Perhaps, more than ever, we need to stop living on the planet, and start living with it.
Daniel has been selected to speak at this very prestigious event. With the theme of the conference being 'Catalysts', Daniel will speak on behalf of the Geographical Sciences in suggesting a unique perspective on the way we tackle contemporary issues such as Global Warming.
Alongside Daniel is a line-up of very high profile speakers. Already confirmed are:
Leon McCarron- a Northern Irish film-maker and writer, who has appeared on TV in over 60 countries worldwide.
Maja Szymczyk- a multilingual singer, actress and presenter who has performed with some of the best musicians around the world, even singing for Princes.
Edward Heywood- Co-founder of 'Urban Cloud', he has raised over £150k in seed capital, orchestrated 10 strategic partnerships, and took part in Founders Space accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Kate Russell- Reporter and Author, appearing on BBC technology programme 'Click' and involved in UK and Global Policy meetings to shape the way the internet is governed.
Marco Poletto- Leads the BIO Urban Design Research Cluster and is the Unit Master at the Architectural Association in London with projects exhibited throughout the world.
Marko Pajevic- Senior Lecturer at the School for Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the Royal Holloway, currently developing an international research network on poetics and thinking language.
Tracey Brown- Director of Sense about Science, reviews policy both in the UK and worldwide. Led the award winning campaigns, and has been named as one of the 10 leading scientists in policy making by the Science Council.
Paul Smith- Appeared on stage over 1000 times around the world as a recording artist, writer and arranger. Performed at Mariinksy Theatre in Russia, National Centre of Performing Arts in Beijing, and Opera City in Tokyo.
Jeffrey DeMarco- Forensic psychologist , criminological and legal researcher who works nationally and internationally with governments. Currently working with the European Commission in preventing computer mediated crimes against children.
Salman Al Najem- Painter with a BA in Interior Design from the University of the Arts' London College of Communication.
Katy Kann- Russian Artist. Featured in the World's Greatest Erotic Art of Today, selected as 'Best of Show' by the Colors of Humanities Art Gallery and is currently studying Architecture at the University of Manchester.
Manos Tsakiris- Professor of Psychology at Royal Holloway, with research funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the European Research Council.
Daniela de Rosa- Produced and conducted radio programmes about travel ad lifestyle for Italy, and writes travelling guides for women.
TED is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.