From Black to Green

By Vincent Colliard 

Black Friday is coming up. Time for the highly promoted sales, the temptation to not resist and our hysteria to buy goods without needs. The big elephant in the room called “growth” will be well fed next Friday. So I am asking myself the question: what shall I do during the busiest day of the year?

For the past 15 years, I have been exploring remote places mainly in the polar regions. Since 2014, Børge Ousland and I co-lead the Icelegacy Project, an ongoing series of expeditions crossing the 20 largest icecaps on the planet. Our goal? To bridge adventure and science in order to give a louder voice to glacier recession.

All these adventures and the fact to witness the acceleration of climate change in the polar regions have changed my mindset and the way I consume. I always keep in mind the human footprint.

A French ecologist in France named Pierre Rabhi started the Colibri movement. The legend says that one day, a big fire burns in the forest. All the animals are devastated and forced to leave. One humming bird is travelling between a river and the fire. Every time he goes to the river, he collects water in his beak. Then, he flies over the fire and drops the water, again and again. Suddenly, another animal comes to meet him and says: “what are do doing humming bird? Aren’t you crazy? It won’t change anything!”. The humming bird replies: “I am trying to do my share.”

From taxing myself with 1$ each time I come home with some plastic and giving it to environmental non-profits, to not buying what I don’t really need, from consuming local seasonal food to my latest effort to plant a tree each time I take the plane, I am just trying to do my share like the humming bird because I feel sad about what’s happening to our planet. So far in 2019, I have contributed to plant 30 trees. 20 in the village of Tarauaca in the Brazilian Amazon forest and 10 in the South West of France where I come from. However, I face the challenge of travelling the globe going to remote places and trying to reduce my carbon foot print in the same time. I talk about the environment and in the same time I am far away from being a responsible person. I am no hero.

To me climbing a mountain is like making progress in our own lives. Reaching the top of a peak at the end of the day is like achieving something we have been working hard on. What is important is the approach. Being on the summit of Everest after crossing crevasses with ladders, climbing on fixed rope and breathing from oxygen bottles compromise the adventure. The human footprint becomes huge! It’s a totally different approach than reaching the top of the mountain and leaving no trace behind you. Climbing like if no one has been here before. 

I had the chance to spend some time with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor brand Patagonia. Once he said, the good farmer is someone who will leave the land in a better shape than when he received it. So every decision is taken like if tomorrow is 100 years from now.

A pessimist would say « we can’t do anything! It’s all over » or an optimist would say « everything is fine! That’s ok ». Well in both cases, nothing gets done. To me, what matters is whether we are part of the solution or part of the problem. Being part of the solution, isn’t it a great opportunity to grow as persons, as a society and be more responsible in the same time?

I am really convinced that corporations can help saving or can reduce damaging this planet by selling cleaner products and services. I also think that I have to become more and more aware of the efforts made by businesses fighting the environmental crisis before I buy a product. We vote every four years for a president. But with our credit card, we vote every single day!

When we raise a family, we protect our children. When Christmas arrives, we are proud to be able to spoil them. Isn’t it the best gift we can offer to our children is to give them the chance to explore a world still wild? In my world, it means lot of ice and some good fat polar bears ;-).

What about if we turn “Black Friday” into “Green Friday”? On my end, I will try to chase a moment in nature instead of chasing the best offers online. What about you? Don’t feel any pressure about being different and not buying on “Black Friday”. Feel proud!