The following is a piece written by WildChina Explorer 2017 Kyle Obermann originally published on the Outbound Collective. The WildChina Explorer Grant was established in 2011 to enable other dreamers and explorers to embark on the same path that allowed us to share our exploration philosophy with the world. Through the WildChina Explorer Grant we find adventurers who aspire to make an impact through exploration. For more information and to be the first to hear the news about the WildChina Explorer Grant visit our website and sign up for our WildChina Explorer Grant newsletter.
The above photo is a Tibetan Lama climbing with a DSLR and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached at 15,000ft. He’s scaling this wall to take a picture of an endangered eagle’s nest. Although now in his mid-40s, at 18 he left his monastery to become a conservationist on the Tibetan plateau. He also burned me on this climb, leaving me wondering how he conquered this crumbling cliff so fast, robes and all.
Answer: he’s a boss.
So are all conservationist and scientists who work to save this seemingly sinking-ship of a world we live on. I don’t say that pessimistically, but pragmatically. Climate change’s effects are dynamic and exponentially speeding up. Here on the Tibetan plateau, where I work, the effects are already felt 3x as strong as elsewhere on our planet. But other places are catching up. Glacier National Park, to name one. The noose is tightening.
So, yes, it’s a good thing we have individuals like Tibetan Lamas climbing mountains for conservation. During my time as a conservation photographer in western China I have entered the wild with many local conservationist, and nearly all of them were more worthy of the title “Explorer” than myself. These are the real adventurers, not because they have an Instagram or Youtube, but because their everyday office is the place where we go to occasionally relax or “find ourselves.”
Therein lies the problem. While these conservationists, the real explorers, do the good work, they often don’t promote it well – or at least connect with regular people who aren’t exposed or interested in these issues on an everyday basis. On the other hand, there is us, who explore because we like to, take pictures because we know how, and use social media to promote ourselves and share our experiences with others.
Therein lies the great opportunity. It’s time that us outdoor enthusiasts and explorers use our skill and creativity to publicly support conservation. Conservation work is tough, but it is also one of the coolest and most rewarding jobs there is. Further, it takes you to the most beautiful places. Conservation is sexy. Can we use our talents and show it as such?
More so, when we are enjoying the outdoors ourselves, can we think creatively to bring the outdoors outside our circle of fellow nature hobbyists and Instagramers and into the broader, previously uninterested public? We need to use our talents outdoors for conservation in ways big or small – because if we do nothing the very nature we enjoy will surely not be there for the next generation to enjoy.
So, let’s work together and as individuals to make conservation sexy. We each have something unique to contribute, and in face of a climate crisis it is certainly our responsibility to do so. How can you creatively use exploration to contribute to conservation? Think about it. The below video is a tad ridiculous, but it got over 25,000 views in China over 24 hours. I know there are much more sexy people than I out there. Let’s do this.