2020 was a funny old year (to say the least). We lost track of the Plan As that went to Bs, Cs, even Zs, until finally we gave up making plans at all. However, amongst all the uncertainty and rearranging, the pressing of pause on “normal” life allowed for some crucial time to learn, reflect and set our sights on a vision for the future – one that actually looks a lot better than it did pre-Covid.
Back in June 2020, we announced we were working on a Sustainable-ish strategy, and since then we’ve identified and are working towards our primary Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs. Let’s be honest though, it’s questionable just how sustainable development can be – even putting these two words together is an oxymoron. Which is why we’ve chosen to shoot for sustainable-ish – acknowledging the fact that so long as tourism relies on using fossil fuels and emitting carbon dioxide we will never be truly sustainable. But we can absolutely be doing our best.
Exponential industrial growth on a global scale has triggered many of the complex sustainability issues we’re dealing with today – like the climate crisis, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss. However, knowing the planet’s boundaries, recognising that some resources are finite and shifting towards ones that are renewable, replenish-able and regenerative can help us improve the systems that are no longer working for Earth and its people.
With the 22nd April now globally recognised as Earth Day, it’s no accident that we’re talking about these things today. The theme this year is ‘Restore Our Earth’ and the focus is on environmental justice, climate education, citizen science and restoration efforts. Humans need to play their part, be willing to change – and to employ multi-layered, systemic solutions to create a healthier future for our Planet (and us).
After all, looking after the Earth now means we will be looked after in the long run.
Earth Day itself first took place in 1970, less than a decade after Rachel Carson (naturalist, marine biologist and ecologist) published her inspirational bestseller Silent Spring – as she attempted to take on the US government’s use of chemical pesticides post World War 2.
Carson and her work is often credited as the inspiration for the modern environmental movement, and the revolutionary influence behind the very first Earth Day rallies.
That first event inspired 20 million Americans to take to the streets protesting the damage the Industrial Revolution had caused, and the natural spaces (and people) that industry would continue to exploit if there was no opposition. And by the end of 1970, real, significant, legislative change had been set in motion:
“The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.” [The History of Earth Day]
So back to what WE can do – and indeed ARE doing.
In order to reach our own Sustainable-ish targets, one of the things we’ve done is partnered with Mossy Earth.
Mossy Earth is a team of passionate conservationists with one mission in mind: to restore wild ecosystems, support wildlife and biodiversity and help fight climate change. With values rooted in rigorous methodology and transparency, their reforestation and rewilding projects in Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Scotland, Ireland and now Madagascar are already having a huge impact.
Our work with them is helping towards our commitment to drastically reduce our carbon footprint – and they’re planting trees on our behalf for every booking made with Soul & Surf.
We thought we’d introduce you to three of the six team members behind Mossy Earth, as one of the benefits of working closely with a small, European social enterprise is that we actually get to work together.
There’s Matt Davies – double dog owner, former teacher and cofounder, Tiago de Zoeten – avid researcher and conservation biologist, and longboarder and digital brand manager Ria Rocha.
Why do you think the work Mossy Earth is doing is so important right now?
Matt: Despite the media’s understandable shift from environmental issues to the U.S. presidential elections and the covid pandemic, we still face an imminent climate crisis! It is our mission to continue fighting climate change by securing the future of wilderness and biodiversity through impactful rewilding projects which seek to have the highest environmental return on investment for our members. Recent studies have even shown that rewilding is key to restoring biodiversity and fighting climate change. Restoring just 15% of degraded lands in critical areas could avoid 60% of expected species extinction and capture 30% of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. So, I feel our focus on rewilding is more important than ever!
Tiago: We are facing a climate crisis and the collapse of ecosystems and there are many people and organisations wanting to do something about this that don’t know where to start. There are many opportunities to have a positive impact on biodiversity that are currently neglected and there is a lot of learning and innovation to do.
Ria: The present moment is already too late to fix everything we have been doing wrong for the past decades. But it is the only moment we’ve got and it is crucial that we act. I believe that if we continue putting effort into the impactful solutions we can get really far. And a combination of planting the right trees in the right place, plus rewilding initiatives, take us closer to bringing back the lost balance. Restoring what were once wild landscapes, I believe, covers the most important issues we need to solve.
Where do you think your sense of connection to nature came from?
Matt: Growing up, my parents made sure we had an outdoorsy upbringing. We would spend our weekends and school holidays camping, swimming and surfing in the sea, exploring and adventuring in the woods or hiking in the countryside.
Tiago: I believe it probably started with hiking, surfing and camping trips as a child. I then got into nature photography, rock climbing and pursuing a career in biology. It is a source of so much good in my life, both from the direct experiences I have outside and the intellectual challenge of trying to understand it and restore it.
Ria: My connection to nature came from growing up in a family of surfers, I’ve been in the ocean since I can remember. I also lived on a farm up until I was a teenager and it was hard to get me inside the house. I have always felt the best among the animals and the trees.
What’s your favourite way to play in Earth’s ecosystems?
Matt: Surfing in the ocean or trail running in the mountains, something that living in Portugal enables me to do.
Tiago: Probably rock climbing. It just feels like a very natural and intimate way to interact with the landscape, to be physically and mentally challenged and to explore amazing natural places. You need to pay very close attention to the features and texture of the rock and find a way to solve a puzzle created by nature, it is just so much fun!
Ria: Surfing has been and always will be where I feel most at home. If the spot where I go surfing was left wild then I am in paradise.
Soul & Surf plant trees with Mossy Earth for every guest booked to stay with us, so you can be sure that by choosing us you are making a positive impact on the Earth.
If you want to go a step further, head over to their website, check out all the resources (such as the carbon calculator and low impact living guides) and sign up to their membership platform, but be sure you let them know we sent you!
Also check out the Earth Day activities to see how you can get involved – and remember it’s not just a day, it’s a movement.