I had the pleasure of seeing Roz Savage speak at the Nicholas School of the Environment last year. That talk was a slightly longer version of the one above, with the addition that she had finished her Pacific voyage in Papua New Guinea. The question I pose to our readers is, what effect do these large, but ultimately personal journeys have on conservation? Do you find them inspiring? Self-absorbed? Powerful? Inconsequential? Do conservation initiatives have more impact when they have a human face attached to them? Who else has inspired you?
Paul Theroux wrote an excellent essay about this problem, called “The Awkward Question.” I think it was reprinted in the anthology “Fresh Air Fiend.” In it, he discusses – but never really resolves – a fundamental problem for people who are driven to pursue strange adventures: what do you say when people inevitably ask “why?”
I think Roz Savage rows across oceans because Roz Savage wants to row across oceans. Rather than retreat into the Edmund Hillary dodge (“because it was there”), she tacked a conservation message onto her journeys. That ends the awkward discussion, and lets her continue the adventures that really drive her.
As someone who’s gone on a few odd adventures himself, I find these journeys both inspiring and self-absorbed.