In this episode, Mary-Ann Ochota chats to National Geographic explorer Dwayne Fields about giving young people a chance to shine, helping urban communities connect with the outdoors, advice for allies and how to respect the wild.
The Finding Our Way Podcast champions diverse outdoor voices and is proudly sponsored by Berghaus.
Dwayne Fields is a mountaineer, expedition leader and National Geographic explorer who uses his adventures to inspire others to explore a life outdoors. He was the first black Briton to walk to the North Pole, is a proud ambassador for the Scouts, and is one of the stars of the BMC’s Respect the Wild campaign, showing people some of the things you need to know to wild camp responsibly.
He’s also one half of the leadership team of the #WeToo Foundation. Together with Phoebe Smith, he’s leading a group of underprivileged young people from across the UK on a carbon-negative expedition to Antarctica. They’re already planning the next expedition and will be recruiting another group of young people who deserve a chance to have a life-inspiring adventure and can become ambassadors for their communities.
A Quick Chat with Dwayne…
You’re about to lead the inaugural Team We Two expedition to Antarctica. Why is this so important to you?
I’m so excited. It's the first ever carbon negative expedition of its kind. These young people would never have even thought about going on holiday, let alone going on a work venture to Antarctica. The biggest lesson for us is - don't underestimate a young person. If you give them a chance, they will impress you. If you give them an opportunity, they will take it and have fun and learn and share what they've learnt as well. And they’ll grow in confidence and personality. That's when you see someone really come alive - when you've given them a chance to be themselves.
When we spoke to young people they'd say things like, ‘Yeah, but is climate change really even a problem? What if some of the ice melts? Where is Antarctica? Why should I care? It doesn't make a difference to me. What's two degrees?’ And that's the problem. It's this faraway place that they only hear about on the news or read about in a magazine. And by bringing it home, by taking someone from these communities to Antarctica, it becomes a real thing that whoever down the road went there and they said, 'This is what I saw and experienced'. People will respond better to their peers than to my voice on a TV saying, 'This is why we should care'. All the participants are also doing projects in their own communities to pay it forward – from litter picks to citizen science projects to tree planting.
We’re already planning the next We Two Expedition. So watch our socials and we’ll let you know when you can start nominating a young person to join the expedition. Or nominating yourself!
How can people – who might be typical outdoors people, say, white, middle class, wealthy, able-bodied -help diversify the outdoors?
Reach out to people you see doing cool stuff. Show your support. Not patronising, but like you’d talk to a friend. Offer your help and skillset to groups. But if they say no, that’s cool, don’t be upset. And keep the offer open – don’t turn your back.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – I think we all need to have safe space where someone who is coming into a situation with an intention to learn or improve shouldn’t be afraid and isn’t berated for asking a question in an awkward way. If you don’t know, you don’t know.
Many people are fearful of the countryside, if it’s unfamiliar. How do you encourage someone to give it a go?
As a species we’ve started to gravitate towards and live in cities. We've almost forgotten that we're part of the landscape, we're part of nature. When you spend any amount of time out there in nature, it's a reminder that you're part of this massive, bigger machine. You're a tiny part, but you are part of it nonetheless. There's power in that.
So go into the outdoors. Go and spend time on the moors. Go into the hills. 99.99% of the people you come across to give you a friendly smile, and a wave. So don't be afraid. The wildlife aren't going to take you down. If you can survive in urban Britain - inner city Birmingham, Manchester, or London, you can survive in the outdoors. Just bring a warm hoody and a waterproof. It doesn't have to be Gore-Tex! Go out there and try it.
You've just done something that you weren’t sure you could do, and now there's no going back. The amount of confidence and self-belief you get from that, you couldn't pay for it. You couldn't buy it. I think that's the magic.
You fronted the BMC campaign, Respect The Wild, to help everyone behave responsibly in the outdoors – from litter, to going to the toilet, to wild camping etiquette. How do we get important messages out to the people who need to hear them?
We all love a three word slogan. My favourite is Leave. No. Trace. One of the things I do every single time I go out is I'll come back with a pocket full of rubbish. I don't see who drops it, I don't care who drops it, I just wish they wouldn't. Educate everyone and anyone. If you know not to do it, it's your responsibility to educate somebody else, even if it's just one person. Don't get upset if you see rubbish dropped and you haven't done anything to try and prevent it.
What does mountaineering and adventuring mean to you?
Everything. I get to feel free and it gives me something that I can share with others.
USEFUL LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
Meet our guests from Season 1:
Rehna Yaseen: Free kit, ‘BAME’ and inspiring young South Asians
Euan Ryan: Making films, climbing and hidden disabilities
Bonita Norris: Everest, ethics and disordered eating
Rob Mitchell: Cake, maps, and gay, bi- & trans lads outdoors
Cherelle Harding: Urban community, reggae and rolling down hills
Stu Skinner: Deserts, jungles and mental health training
Finding Our Way is sponsored by Berghaus, and hosted by BMC walking ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota. Our editor is Chris Stone. Get involved with the conversation. Share your thoughts on @TeamBMC on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #FindingOurWay
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Finding Our Way is the new BMC podcast where our guests are as diverse as the outdoors should be.
Hosted by BMC Hillwalking Ambassador and TV Broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota and Expedition Leader and equity champion Cress Allwood, the podcasts aims to diversify the people we normally hear talking about the outdoors, celebrate their stories and shine a light on their insights.
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