If you turned on the news on an average day in 2019 it’d be easy to think that the world, and the beautiful nature within it, is being more heavily neglected than a January gym membership come 1st February. But, while saying it’s been a divisive past 12 months is a bit like stating that the Pope is Catholic, if you dig down past the doom, gloom and confusion, there have actually been a lot of awesome stories of adventure, conservation and sustainability in 2019.
In no particular order, here are a few of those, to help you go into 2020 with a bit more hope and optimism than you might otherwise have done. Remember, there’s plenty of good out there too!
1. Robots are now helping us save coral reefs
Whilst they have been famously tipped to eventually develop their own consciousness, rise up and take over the world, for now, pioneering robotics are actually proving pretty useful. We all know that the world’s coral reefs are in trouble due to rising pollution and sea temperatures. But the good news is that some very wise boffins in Oz have decided to do something about it with a submersible robot that can deliver millions of coral larvae to damaged reef systems to help restore them. Watch the full video here, on the BBC.
2. Anna McNuff runs over 2,350 miles barefoot
The inimitable Anna McNuff ran 90 barefoot marathons around the UK as part of her Barefoot Britain project – starting in the very north in Shetland, in June, and finishing in London in November. That works out at 2,352 miles in total. Crazy. She spoke to Girl Guides around the country as she went, encouraging them to dream big when it comes to adventure.
“What I’ve learned from all these years doing bonkers adventures around the world,” she says. “Is that if you take on things you think are just beyond what you can actually do, and then somehow make it through, you get this confidence you would never have had otherwise. It’s about helping young women to be what they want by showing them an example. Everyone thinks I’m a bit crazy – you’ve got to just crack on!”
Read out full Barefoot Britain interview with Anna McNuff here.
3. Bagging peaks with diabetes
States-based mountain lovers Michael Shelver and Patrick Mertes set out to show that having type one diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing peaks by taking on 50 US High-Points in 50 Days. They said: “We wanted to prove to the rest of the world that if you plan ahead and have the right attitude, you can do anything with this condition.” Having now completed the project, they certainly managed to do exactly that! Follow them on Instagram.
4. Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in 12 hours
There’s tree planting, and then there’s tree planting. According to Ethiopia‘s Minister of Innovation and Technology, the country planted 350 million trees in a single day earlier this year to help tackle the climate crisis. The effort was part of their national “green legacy” campaign, which is aimed to grow four billion trees over the summer by asking every citizen to plant at least 40 seedlings. Public offices were even shut down so that civil servants could take part in the planting!
5. Jenny Graham sets a new record for cycling around the world
Scotland’s Jenny Graham became the fastest woman to ever circumnavigate the world on a bicycle. The journey spanned four months and 18,000 miles. Graham travelled through 16 countries, including through Russia, Mongolia, China, Australia, Canada and more. In the end, she took a full 20 days off the previous women’s record (set by Italian cyclist Pola Gianotti in 2014) and rode around the planet in 124 days, 10 hours and 50 minutes. Guinness ratified the record on 10th June 2019 and now it’s official. Read our interview with Jenny Graham here.
6. The hiking surgeon who’s restored sight to 130,000 of Nepal’s blind
Dr. Sanduk Ruit is an ophthalmologist who has trekked all over Nepal on a mission to perform cataract surgeries on blind people living in remote areas. Surgical equipment in tow, Ruit has hiked up to seven days to treat people’s blindness and has restored vision to over 130,000 people. It’s a truly incredible story and you can hear it all on the video above.
7. The Grandson Helping His Grandma See the World
What’s not to love about this little story? Brad Ryan was regaling stories of his travels to his 85-year-old gran when he learnt that she’d never seen the ocean or mountains herself. He did what any good grandson would and took her on an epic road trip to fix that. If you like such wholesomeness in your feeds, then go follow their journey on Instagram.
8. Former Farc rebels become eco-warriors to stop deforestation in the Amazon
Former Farc rebels in Colombia, “who spent decades fighting the government over land and power”, have changed their focus and become eco-warriors to fight for the Amazon rainforest. Specifically, they’re looking to save the Amazon rainforest from illegal logging.
9. Ben Lecomte swims the Pacific Garbage Patch to showcase the trash in our oceans
Ben has kicked through at least 371 miles of trash. It exists in a ‘vortex of plastic trash’ in the ocean between Hawaii and California that is bigger in size than two Texases. Some of the pictures he’s sharing from swimming the area is absolutely nuts and Ben’s found an adventurous and powerful way to raise awareness about it. Read about his story here.
10. Boyan Slat’s “Ocean Cleanup” is now catching plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Ben Lecomte is highlighting the issue and Boyan Slat is trying to fix it! Boyan Slat is a man. He is a man with a very interesting name and an even more interesting creation. Boyan is a Dutch inventor, who in 2013 founded The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit aimed at removing plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The group designed a device that collects plastic in its fold like a giant arm, but their system encountered a few problems so never really started what it was built to do. Until now. Read more about the project on BrightVibes.
11. The 25 year old diver leading a team to save Indonesia’s coral reefs from plastic
Indonesia is the world’s second largest contributor to marine waste. Seeing the beautiful coral reefs off the coast of Indonesia’s capital drowning in plastic, 25 year-old Swietenia Puspa Lestari decided to take action. She leads a team of volunteer divers who clear rubbish from the reefs and recycle what they find. Check out the full story in this video, on the BBC.
12. For a full year, environmentalist Rob Greenfield lived only on what he grew or foraged
Literally every morsel that passed Rob Greenfield’s lips in the last year, he either grew in his gardens or he went out into nature and harvested. Find out how he did it, why he did it, how he feels about it and what he hopes to achieve from it, over on BrightVibes.
13. The indigenous women scaling the Andes’ Highest Peaks
The “Climbing Cholitas” are Bolivian Aymara indigenous women who until recently worked as cooks and caretakers for well-heeled, mostly male mountaineers from around the world. These women had been working at high camps for years, catering to the crews headed to the high peaks of the Andes. Finally, they decided to strap on crampons and hike up to the top themselves. They climb in traditional dress, with alpine boots, ice axes, helmets and packs. Check out the video above.
14. 82 Year Old Cyclist Russ Mantle Becomes First Brit to Cycle One Million Miles
82-year-old cyclist Russ Mantle, from Aldershot, become the first person in the UK to have ever ridden one million miles in their lifetime. Not sure how you quite measure that, but that’s neither here nor there. Mr Mantle, a former carpenter and joiner, has averaged a staggering 14,700 miles every year since 1951. Legend. Have a read of his story on Cycling UK.
15. Waymarking the Transcaucasian Trail across Armenia
A team of mountain bikers made their way 3000km across Transcaucasian Trail across Armenia, waymarking the route as they went. Their ride was an effort to build a world-class trail network along the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. Check out their beautiful Instagram account here, and then go check out our adventure holidays throughout Armenia!
16. Canadians crowdfunded $3,000,000 to buy and save 2,000 acres of beautiful land
“It’s just an amazing, amazing thing that people have done. It was so many people who gave us $10 or $15,” said B.C. Parks Foundation CEO Andrew Day following one of the first crowdfunded protected parks in the country. Big fans of this here; more of this kind of thing!
17. Musician Jack Johnson surfs a board made of cigarette butts to kick all of ours into gear
Musician/surfer/Muppets fan Jack Johnson and filmmaker Ben Judkins did a super cool project earlier in the year. The duo dropped a film featuring a surfboard made out of butts to highlight the “many threats beyond single-use plastic that are threatening our oceans”. Watch the video on YouTube, just above where your eyes are now. And remember, we’re much better when we’re together.
18. How one man transformed a waste land into a nature conservation
What was once an abandoned landscape of overgrazed, waterless scrubland has been transformed into a lush green oasis—thanks to businessman and nature-lover David Bamberger. His model of land stewardship is now being replicated across the region and he is considered a visionary in land management and water conservation. More on that here.
19. Grandmother with MS wanted to climb a mountain, so 40 people carried her to the top
Janelle Boston lives in Queensland, Australia. She had always dreamed of climbing a mountain as a kid, but was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 20s. Janelle then ended up replying to a post in a local community Facebook group, asking people about things that they wish they had done, but had not yet managed to. A good samaritan saw the comment, and thought they’d fix that! They asked the nearby rugby league team to help out, and they took Janelle up the mountain! Check out the full story here.
20. The indigenous tribe using adventure tourism to keep their traditions alive
“There was no tourism. There was no industry. They used to have to grab coffee and hike down to the traders, and even then they’d get a set-price per kilo which they had no negotiation over. Without the tourism… I don’t think the village would still exist.” We deep dive into the amazing story of the Manggarai people, who live in the mountain village of Wae Rebo and use ecotourism to keep their traditions alive. Read our full feature on the Wae Rebo village.
21. Dudley Edmonson’s quest to make green spaces less white
Dudley Edmondson grew up interested in the outdoors, exploring the woods outside Columbus, Ohio. But as recently as the year 2000, he didn’t know any other African Americans who considered themselves outdoors types. So Edmondson went looking. Starting in 2002, he traveled the country, interviewing and photographing African-Americans passionate about the outdoors. Four years later, his quest became a book, Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places. He recently talked to Grist about the experience.
22. ‘Lobsters and octopuses are back’: The Kenyan women leading a reef revival
Another tale of good people doing good things to save reefs! Three years ago, coral reef along the Kenyan coastline was almost totally destroyed in some areas. Women on the island of Wasini have led an initiative to restore degraded coral, and shown how coral restoration techniques can revive marine ecosystems and create sustainable livelihoods. A positive story of community and eco-tourism from The Guardian.
23. Canada became the first country in the world to protect more than 10% of its ocean waters
Canada is warming at twice the global rate. A recent report even warned that most the Arctic in Canada would be free of sea ice by 2050. That’s obviously bad. What is good though, is that Canada is now protecting almost 14% of its oceans, after the government partnered with Inuit custodians to create a huge new area of conservation.
24. 138 seal pups born of the banks of the Thames
62 years ago, the Natural History Museum declared that the River Thames, which runs through London, was so heavily polluted that it was “biologically dead”. So the news this year that (at least) 138 seal pups had been born on the banks of the river was quite remarkable.
25. UK renewables generate more energy than fossil fuels
For the first time ever, in the third quarter of 2019, the windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants of the United Kingdom generated more electricity than coal, oil and gas combined. There’s a long way to go, but at least 2019 had some signs to be hopeful – if you know where to look!
Why not ensure you’ve got a 2020 to remember by booking yourself on one of our adventure holidays? Have a look now. You won’t be disappointed.