Countdown To Blue Earth '23 -
10-12 Oct — Bristol
The doors may have closed on a record-breaking event, but the conversation continues, and there’s no doubt that we are on the cusp of change. Attendees included adventurers, investors, makers, mavericks, founders and futurists, all fuelled by a connection to our outdoor playgrounds, resulting in a combination of the greatest minds and experiences to drive purposeful action and meaningful change for the good of the planet.
‘I loved the event, met marvellous people and had proper conversations as if people believed the world was about to change.’ Sir Tim Smit, KBE, Co-founder of Eden Project
The Blue Earth Summit, was hosted by Bristol’s Propyard and The Wave, and formed a global stage for voices not only to share their experiences but also to call for action. From Richard Walker hinting a move into politics, to Protect our Winters rallying outdoor brands to urge political change, the Summit inspired action from the moment the doors opened, to the final sets at The Wave subsiding.
It’s never an easy task to wrap-up such an action-packed schedule of talks, workshops and activities, but we’ve picked some hot headlines from across all three days to give an idea of what went down at Blue Earth Summit ’22.
‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans’. Former CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, Hugo Tagholm, now one of the most prominent advocates for ocean cleanup in the UK delivered a speech full of razor-sharp statements about the way in which our oceans are being destroyed.
With UK water companies dominating the headlines through their failure to meet environmental standards, pouring out 2.1 million litres of sewage, and global adventurers commenting on the sheer volume of plastic witnessed on their voyages, Hugo threw out some sobering statistics and questions. ‘95% of our oceans are yet to be explored. Are we killing what we haven’t discovered yet?’ As Hugo rounded off his speech and drew a line under his work for Surfers Against Sewage, the audience erupted into applause to celebrate a hard-fought 30 years of protesting to protect our ocean playgrounds.
Hugo’s statements were later backed up as big wave surfer, Chris Bertish, took to the stage and stated “The amount of plastic I saw was more terrifying than being attacked by a shark.” Coming from somebody with the bravery to take on 60ft waves, this is a cause we have to stand up and take concerted action for.
Amidst a sea of soundbites and questions on accountability, palm oil, purposeful business models and more, Richard Walker, Iceland MD, brought the power of corporate activism back into view recognising the influence that business has when channelled in the right way. He said ‘we’re a supermarket, we know we’re not a sustainable business, but we can throw down the gauntlet and encourage corporate activism’. Richard went on to hint that he would be willing to take that activism one step further. When asked if he would ever consider a career in politics, following a pointed statement about the need for more outside voices in Westminster, he suggested that we ‘watch this space’.
Four pioneering adventure finalists took to the stage to pitch their inspirational exploration ideas to a panel comprising of outdoor specialists. From plans to run the length of Africa to solo rowing around the world, the pitches pushed the boundaries as to what we think of as possible.
Felix Daglish won the judge’s vote with his pitch to solo cycle from Dorset to the Orkney Islands on a specially designed quadriplegic bike, stating that “it’s more than an adventure – it’s a chance to change the way we see disability and struggle”.
The Summit was not short of strong, female figures, with Caroline Dennett’s new energy announcement followed by Founder of the Women of the Environment Network and Co-Founder at SHE Changes Climate, Bianca Pitt.
Bianca’s session was driven by the fact that only 34% of COP26 committees, and 39% of those leading delegations, were women. At the 2021 G7 Summit, there was only one woman amongst the decision makers. With social inequality contributing significantly to the climate energy crisis, there is no question that future climate discussions need more diversity, with more female seats at the table. Bianca also shared, horrifyingly, that 75% of people living in poverty are women, asking, “Would you sail the world with one eye firmly patched up – particularly if you know there are choppy waters ahead”? The session was an informative and provocative format to challenge thinking and give some clarity on the diversity challenges associated with the climate crisis.
‘Morality will only get us so far, we need legislation to take us the rest of the way.’ Dan Yates, Protect our Winters
Dan Yates from Protect our Winters, made a live, on-stage announcement urging action from brands, consumers and athletes ahead of Cop27. In the wake of British Cycling’s controversial decision to sign on Shell as long-term sponsors, and with a separate open letter to lobby legislative change in the outdoor industry to combat climate change, Dan called out to brands in attendance to join the Protect our Winters pledge. He stated ‘We all know that personal action isn’t going to cut it. We have to drive systemic change’. With a growing appreciation for corporate activism and the collective influence that brands and corporations have on invoking change, all at Blue Earth Summit witnessed a live and poignant call to action. The call to action was driven by Protect our Winters, alongside a variety of outdoor brands including Picture Organic Clothing, Burton Snowboards and Internet Fusion Group (Surfdome).
“Hearing people cheer and give honest feedback anytime I address the issue of meaningful youth engagement and our role in saving the planet is very humbling. My experience at the Blue Earth Summit wasn’t any different. These past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of sessions and discussions on the future of collaboration in the global south and multi-generation conversations on the view of climate change”. Nadia Owusu, Convener, Local Conference of Youth Ghana.
Not everyone at Blue Earth Summit this year came from within driving/walking distance of Bristol. Emmanuel Ameyaw, Akosua Manu, Nadia Owusu and Abraham Bugre joined us from Ghana to engage in a series of sessions focusing on the view from the Global South, an area that brings the least harm to the environment but bears the greatest impact. This team of activists and media experts brought with them the compelling perspectives needed to encourage attendees to take action, especially when it came to empowering the next generation.
“We don’t know where we’ll be in 20 years – young people will grow up to inherit these policies, so we all need to understand the long term impact of tackling climate change and leave no one behind. The fight must be inclusive, and that means youth needs a seat at the table.” Emmanuel Ameyaw, Ghanaian Journalist and Communications Specialist
“At Blue Earth Summit I felt part of a community, what an incredible event to bring like-minded people together to think about how we can use our businesses as a force for good. The turnout itself was motivating. If only more people were open to joining the conversation“. Elly Rowley, Natwest Regional Ecosystem Manager
The Forum stage closed Day 2 proceedings with four of the Blue Earth Summit’s Pitch Tent finalists sharing their purpose-led, industry-disrupting business ideas with a room of investors. Representatives from headline sponsors, Natwest, Seedrs and Stripe, were joined by up to 30 industry-leading funders and VCs. Finalists Bundle, DAME, Kvatt and Shackleton faced questions and encouragement from selected panels, having offered up innovative and game-changing ideas, offering a timely reminder that purposeful business can change the way the world works, for the better.
“It’s time to give creativity a conscience” says Jax Davey, Nuevo. “This isn’t a witch-hunt, we need to accept the mistakes that have been made and move forward together“.
The audience learnt an important lesson in some of the more hidden costs of service industries. With advertising reporting a footprint bigger than aviation, The Blue Earth Summit opened the stage to Jax Davey, CEO of Nuevo, a purpose-built creative agency focused on changing that impact.
Day 3 saw the Summit take the ‘work’ out of networking, as the focus shifted from stationary, upstanding conversation (unless popping up on a surfboard counts) towards making new connections in the great outdoors.
Bristol’s iconic wave-filled venue was shrouded in early morning mist, as the most brazen attendees took to the water for a cold water swimming session led by Laura Nesbitt, open water marathon, ice and winter swimmer, and legendary Ice Miler, Cath Pendleton.
Among the different activities on offer, attendees connected in the line-up waiting for the next wave, on a trail run with Days x Maverick (and no worrying about the route with Komoot in charge), on a bike ride-out with TREK and Trash Free Trails, scaling rock faces with Rab, or on a Climate Crawl with Presca.
The outdoors is something we all love, respect, and want to protect. It can also help us triumph over adversity, which is an aspect that the speakers on Day 3 personified. From Cath Pendleton defying the critics and conquering an Antarctic ice mile (avoiding Orcas in the process) to Tom Hewitt setting up a South African NGO, Surfers not Street Children, designed to take kids out of risky situations on the streets and into the surf, the topics discussed were nothing short of inspirational. The day also saw Siyanda Hewitt, GB and South African pro surfer and Mini Cho, Mozambique’s first professional surfer, give first-hand examples of the impact that the outdoors can have on people, business and society before taking to the wave in the Pro Surf Invitational.
“So many inspirational speakers, interesting connections, and great workshops to redefine how we work – whilst reminding us about the beauty of nature and the outdoors. There’s so much hope if we search for it and this event is a hub for that“. Joss Ford, Blue Earth Ambassador
The Blue Earth Summit may have wrapped up for 2022 in the physical sense, but it’s only the start of conversations that are in full flow on impact, business, people and planet. Three days in Bristol represented more than an event – we have started a movement, bringing people together to inspire positive change.