20 Sep 2017 Story Ecosystems

Q&A with Ben Fogle, UN Environment Patron of the Wilderness

Why do you feel so passionate about your role as UN Environment Patron of the Wilderness? 

I have spent the best part of 25 years in the wilderness and my new role allows me the chance to give back and share some of those incredible experiences. I want to celebrate the wilderness and empower people to make a difference

How do you think this platform can bring about change in the world?

As a broadcaster, I am a communicator. I want to enthuse, educate and empower people. There is a lethargy creeping into environmentalism. People feel helpless but I want to change that and revitalize the message.

What messages do you hope to share with the world?

I hope I can share the power of the wilderness and her riches. The wilderness has so many untapped powers, for well-being, health, and education. We need to stop commoditizing and exploiting it. 

Why is it important for people to spend time in the wild?

As an adventurer I have spent a great deal of time up mountains, in deserts and jungles and on the ocean. The wilderness has great healing qualities. As the world's population continues to expand, urbanization and human habitats sprawl. The wilderness is our escape. It soothes the soul; it is the earth's lungs.

How can everyday citizens take action to protect the world's wild places? 

There are so many little things we can do to protect our wild places. I have seen a creeping tide of trash over the years, not to forget the blight of single-use plastics that are creating a toxic time bomb. We need to be more thoughtful consumers, thinking about the provenance of palm oil, beef, fish or coffee. They all have a tremendous impact on our wilderness. But above all we need to reconnect with the wilderness. 

What can parents do to inspire a passion for wilderness in their children? 

Share the wonders of the wilderness with their children. There is a worrying disconnect between man and wild. Our relationship with the wild should not be one of conflict and battle, it should be symbiotic, a mutual relationship that isn't exploitative. So many consider the wilderness a place we must tame, but the truth is that it is we that must be tamed. It is not man versus wild but man and wild. 

You've spent a lot of time in the wilderness. Is there one place in particular that has special meaning to you?

I love the wilderness and its variety. The earth is such a beautiful place. I have been fortunate to visit more than 200 places, from remote islands in the South Atlantic to Antarctica and the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Brazil. I think the mountains hold a very special place In my heart and my first big role as Patron of the Wilderness will be about mountains.