David de Rothschild is one of those people you’d wish to be sat next to on a 9-hour plane trip. Even if you're not much of a talker on flights, trust us, you would want to hear about his adventures...
David was 26 when he embarked upon his first adventure, a 70-day excursion across Antarctica. “I had zero experience. I lied about everything, what mountain I had climbed, the things I had done” Since then, David has climbed, sailed, hiked and skied in the most remote locations in the world.
He became the youngest British person to reach both poles and was part of a team that broke the world record for the fastest ever crossing of the Greenland ice cap. He rode a motorbike through the mountains of Mongolia, paddled down the Xingu River in Brazil, and sailed across the Pacific Ocean on the Plastiki, an 18-meter catamaran built from approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles. So what does one think about in the middle of the Pacific on a boat made out of plastic glued together with cashew-nut sugar? “What the fuck am I doing here? That’s what I was thinking” he laughs “in the comfort of a warm house, drinking a cup of tea and looking at a map, your travel is a finger swipe. You don’t see the enormity of what it is, skiing or walking across a continent. I promised myself: next time, don’t forget the scale.”
You’d be wrong to assume that David led a life of exotic dilettantism and thrill-seeking. “I’ve always spent a lot of time in the countryside. It was the thing that would make me feel most alive” he explains. When looking for a deeper connection to nature he felt its inherent fragility, which changed everything. “I’ve realized over my time as an environmentalist we’ve kind of failed. We’ve failed because we’ve told stories that are all about the demise of nature and what’s wrong with nature and that if you’re not doing something, you’re part of this problem. And I think that is an intimidating, alienating and sometimes debilitating story for a lot of people, myself included. What we want to do is try and encourage people to travel and explore. We want to try and encourage people to look at nature through a different lens — look at it through the lens of excitement and look at it with a sense of awe and wonder.”
As an ecologist and environmentalist, he set up Sculpt the Future Foundation, a charity that supports innovation and creativity in social and environmental impact. He also made it a mission of introducing companies to sustainable practices: “We need to switch the fear into curiosity” he explains to us. “Focus the narrative on the opportunities, create a sense of wonder and awe”. David’s work has not gone unnoticed by the international community, he was awarded the accolade of “Emerging Explorer" by the National Geographic, nominated as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations Environment Program named him a "Climate Hero."
His most recent adventure? A sustainable high-end brand called: “The Lost Explorer”. Some of its apparel is made from materials that integrate what David refers to as “bio-mimicry”. One being an adaptable heat technology that imitates the action of a pine cone, the fibres open up when it senses you are hot and closes when it detects you are cold. Other products include surf fins made out of recycled fishing nets and Mezcal, branded with a logo that says “Established in 2025” to signal that they are always "in progress.”
He has an uncanny resemblance to a Wes Anderson character: “A speedy-brained, hopeful hero”: With his 193 centimetres, long hair and candid tone. In our special podcast this Semaine, David will discuss nature pornography, why there is no such thing as sustainable fashion, and the possible come back of the Plastiki. So listen up, be inspired, and take action this week.
By Marie Winckler for Semaine.