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Dan Burgess is a busy boy. For the past 25 years, he worked and practised as a DJ, facilitator, design researcher, communications strategist, writer, campaigner, co-designer, activist, artist and learning guide - until a deep research dive in 2006 led him down a climate change rabbit hole that he hasn't come out of. He collaborates with brands, NGOs, and grassroots movements to harness creativity, community and collective energy towards meaningful change.

Dan’s podcast was nominated for the British Podcast Awards in 2022, while his co-authored work, Stories for Life, continues to influence cultural narrative change. Today, his focus is on cultivating regenerative cultures and creative activism, driven by an unwavering passion for the planet and its crew.

Luckily for us, Dan has stayed with us at Soul & Surf, so we got the opportunity to pick his brains.


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Dan in full flow hosting Finisterre's Ocean Mic


What’s your name?

Dan Burgess


Age?

I am 52 now. I started surfing quite late, when I was 37. But you know, it is never too late to start.


What do you do?

I am a mash-up. My work is really three things, all related back to the idea that we are living in a climate and ecological crisis. 

First I am a catalyst: I help people shift and think about change in light of all the environmental climate issues that we are facing. It is a regenerative change.

The second part is creative activism. I do projects and bring together creatives and activists. Like for We Are Ocean. And I collaborate with brands like Finisterre.

Finally I am an (un)learning guide. I support people through action learning and peer learning experiences. I do that through my podcast - The Spaceship Earth Podcast. and the Becoming Crew learning community.


Sounds amazing! What is this podcast about?

The metaphor for the earth as a spaceship has been talked about by many others, like Marshall McLuhan when he says ‘we are all crew’. Or Bucky Fuller, who wrote the 'Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth’.

My riff on the earth as a spaceship is a story called becoming crew. I believe modernity has shaped a passenger story on Spaceship Earth, consumerist, passive and distracted.

I’m interested in what it means to be active participants in co-creating the changes we long for, like the real crew on this spaceship - the more than human world. Nature is the original crew.

How can we learn to think like nature works and step fully into service?

So in my podcast I host people who are in that crew mode and I tell stories. It is about our relationship with earth. The kind of issues we are facing now are so enormous that we need everyone to step in. Creative culture has a big responsibility to help us understand that we are all part of this living earth. We have to shift how we perceive the world.

We are not on top of nature, we are nature.


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Creative culture has a big responsibility to help us understand that we are all part of this living earth. We have to shift how we perceive the world.

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Dan n' Fam with us at Soul & Surf Sri Lanka


 

How did you get there?

I used to do stuff for big companies and I realised it wasn’t gonna work. I used to be in the brand world, helping big companies tell stories. In 2006 I was doing a research project on the future of consumerism – will consumerism become ethical?

That is when I basically fell down a climate change hole and I have never really come back up. I nowadays do less and less with businesses and more and more with culture change. How do we help modern western culture evolve? We are not separate from the natural world. We are nature. So now I am getting deeper into that.

And I was a house DJ for years, so you might find some house music in the podcasts too.


What brought you to Soul & Surf?

I don't remember how I got to know about Soul & Surf exactly – but I knew immediately that it speaks to me and is my vibe.

There is a mindfulness that Soul & Surf has that I like.

The respect for what is already there.

I am a collaborator, I always work with groups. In 2016 I was in Mumbai, India, working on a project around gender rights for girls. So I combined this intense trip with going down to Kerala. 

I had three days at Soul & Surf India, and it was amazing to decompress with surf and yoga after the work we did in Mumbai. I was drawn to surfing, but more about being in the ocean than catching a big wave or a barrel. And I found like-minded people here at Soul & Surf – it is about more than just riding a wave, catching them is just a bonus!

After that, I went to Soul & Surf Portugal with my wife, and now to Soul & Surf Sri Lanka with the kids as well. My dad passed away and he left us some money that made us able to do this trip. So this trip is for him too. It is lovely to spend some time together with the family in this beautiful place.


What inspires you to work?

It might be humility. The realisation that we are not that important. I think it is all about gratitude and appreciation, that openness. That is where the possibility is. We cannot control anything.

During the pandemic a lot of the projects I worked on could not continue, so I started the unlearning adventures on the podcast. When we learn together, we come on these journeys with our own learning questions.

We learn as a community of learners.

It is about letting go of old stories and re-entangling with the web of life. We have to get rid of the old story that we are separate from nature, because we are not. We are nature. 


What does soul mean to you?

For me Soul is something that is hard to describe.

It is a deeper feeling. It is a way of feeling and sensing.

It is a deeper way of knowing or exploring the world for me.

It is vibes.

It is a feeling rather than a way of thinking. More in the heart intelligence. 


Become part of the crew >>

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Dan Burgess - all around activist, storyteller and lovely human being


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