Jump the Chasm: Are you an EcoDaredevil? By Wallace J. Nichols In the 1970’s, I idolized Evel Knievel. He was rock star, sports hero, and folk legend in one. His death-defying jumps inspired me to launch my bicycle over puddles and many a hapless friend. Now, I find new inspiration in my childhood hero. In 1961, before he became “Evel,” Robert Craig Knievel hitchhiked with the rack of a bull elk from Montana to our nation’s capital to protest the culling of elk in Yellowstone. The Kennedy administration responded and countless elk were saved. Today, we face more serious crises—loss of biodiversity, a warming planet, collapsing fisheries, looming food and water shortages, and pollution in every corner of the globe. Scientists forecast a “2050 Scenario” in which Earth is hotter, dirtier, and overcrowded with nine billion people who are left to wage wars for what little remains. Jumping this chasm will be the greatest challenge we have ever faced. It will require revolutionary changes in society and technology. To succeed, we must be brave, creative, and outspoken. We must undertake the audacious, the impossible, and the dangerous. We must risk our financial, social, and physical comfort. In other words, we must become EcoDaredevils. Everywhere I go, I meet EcoDaredevils. They are debating, creating, evolving—yes, sometimes crashing—but always, always coming back for more. Two Texas women cleaning a beach and inspiring Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup that is now half-a-million strong. Sir Richard Branson greening aviation. Feliciano dos Santos campaigning with music for clean water in Africa. Architect Renzo Piano turning a massive roof into a meadow with solar panels. WaterKeeper Julio Solis drag racing in Mexico to raise awareness of our ocean crisis. Changing light bulbs, inflating tires, and toting reusable bags are each important gestures. But it’s going to take action far more thrilling to make it over this canyon. But, we must do something for the planet—something that invites personal risk. They say that Evel Knievel broke every bone in his body at one time or another. But, he kept on jumping. His steely will enthralled me as an eight-year old. It still does today. So, it’s Earth Day 2008. Look deep inside. Grab hold of your inner EcoDaredevil. Strap on a helmet, some red-white-and-blue leathers, and let’s go for a ride. Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is a Senior Scientist at Ocean Conservancy and a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences.
This special Earth Day op-ed comes to us courtesy of our own EcoDaredevil herself, Diane Wilson . Nichols gave an incredible presentation at Bioneers last year (the one held in California), and is a self-professed “turtle geek.”