11th March 2019 | Words by Jack Hart @ WildBounds HQ
The continued destruction of our world’s wild places through human-caused global warming and deforestation is nothing short of a travesty, and yet it continues nonetheless. On the whole, the outdoor industry’s response has been positive, ushering in a flurry of recycled fabrics, local manufacturing and ethical practises, but far more is needed. It’s the reason Chris Packham created his A People’s Manifesto For Wildlife. It’s the reason that we created our Eco-Friendly Collection. It’s also the reason why Adventure Uncovered exists.
In many ways, outdoor adventure and environmentalism have a conflicted relationship – encouraging people to engage with the natural world is imperative to helping them flourish as human beings, and yet shepherding more and more tourists into wild places damages their often fragile ecosystems. It’s a double-edged sword that AU founder James Wight is only too aware of. “It’s a real conflict now, given the seriousness of the sustainability crisis,” he says. “Itchy feet and a sort of nomadic, wandering existence has always been a part of me [but] this year I’ve been more conscious of that and have had the pleasure of exploring more of the UK and Ireland, working on the project as I go along.”
The “project” seems an odd way of describing something as varied and extensive as Adventure Uncovered (the platform regularly publishes new content online and holds several events each year, with more in the pipeline) but Wight definitely sees it as an incomplete article. “Our main focus is to continue building momentum and transform this experiment into a serious platform and business, and therefore [we need to] focus on the financial side of things or our longer-term goals and dreams won’t come to fruition”. At present, the team is a collective of part-timers and students pitching in when they can and gathering in shared workspaces, supported by a modest smattering of sponsors. “The team who are involved so far, however, have all been absolutely incredible: passionate and dedicated. Without them, we wouldn’t exist.”
What Adventure Uncovered have achieved in their short existence (Wight founded the project in 2015) is remarkable. Beyond their online platform, which boasts eloquently written articles exploring a range of environmental and social issues in outdoor adventure, their collection of events ranges from an annual film festival to immersive experiences in the outdoors. “As a human race, we’re transforming into ‘metro-sapiens’ and it’s really important to reconnect with nature,” he explains. “So they’re all about connection: humans and the environment. The events are not only adventurous but explore conservation and mental health.”
Their annual gathering of inquisitive minds and influential figures in the industry, AU Live, is hosted in the hopes of furthering environmental initiatives. “My initial idea for this was really a TED Talks for adventure and the outdoors,” muses Wight. “To really drive it forward I need funding and responsible corporate partners who are leading the way in sustainability. To date, Arc’teryx have been kind enough to provide that support, plus countless partners. I’m confident it will come good at some point with securing courageous founding partners who want to support us.”
Clearly, it’s an uphill struggle. Despite increased efforts from brands throughout the outdoor adventure sphere to improve their sustainability and engage with environmental issues, Wight hasn’t had it easy in creating the platform. “It’s been really hard making our events plastic-free and using local food suppliers – it’s expensive to be sustainable in a world driven by consumption. It’s worth investing, though, as the products and relationships you buy and build in this space are built to last.”
Perhaps because they’ve not had it all their way, Adventure Uncovered has been created as a strong, principled outfit with extensive connections throughout the outdoor industry. 2018’s AU Live was well-attended by figures from influential brands, Finisterre among them. They’ve got ambitious goals, true, but then picking a fight with the forces behind global warming was never going to easy. In just a few years, they’ve created an influential platform with clear goals, however tough it might be to realise them. Their next steps? “Watch this space.”